Let’s Be Cops has roughly the effect of probably watching a student film trying to mimic a decent buddy cop comedy/action flick. And that may be an unfair insult to the work of students and their films. It’s amateurish, poorly written, and gives its actors (some of them quite talented, but you don’t see it here) little to work with. Director/co-writer Luke Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas’s screenplay is mostly devoid of anything resembling originality and quite absent of many genuine laughs.
The concept is simple: two lifelong buddies have made a pact to leave Los Angeles by the time they’re 30 if they haven’t “made it”. Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.) is a struggling video game developer and Ryan (Jake Johnson) is a once promising college quarterback sidelined by a past injury. Clearly they haven’t made it and they’re prepared to return to Columbus, Ohio (I don’t know why my city had to be brought into this mess). A costume party interferes with their California split when they dress up as cops and – wouldn’t you know it! – they get mistaken for actual law enforcement. Suddenly women find them attractive! They can get into clubs easily! And they get caught up with some bad guy Albanians!
Let us count just some of the citations of mediocrity (to be kind) in this screenplay:
1) Jake’s past football glory days cause him to spend his days voluntarily teaching a bunch of young boys the game while cussing them out the majority of the time. It’s more creepy than funny.
2) Justin is supposed to be some genius video game developer whose bosses just don’t understand him, but his “genius” pitch for a game called Patrolman seems really familiar and dull.
3) The main baddie played by James D’Arcy is quite possibly the most cliched villain in a genre ripe with them.
4) Talented comic performers like Rob Riggle and Natasha Leggero are saddled with little to do.
I could go on and the same rule applies to Johnson and Wayans Jr., who can’t rise above the material despite their efforts. And there’s Andy Garcia as the time honored crooked cop (the true nature of his character is supposed to a big reveal, but you won’t care).
The screenwriters bank on this flimsy premise of watching these two play boy in blue providing consistent humor for 100 minutes. It would have been great if “Let’s Be Just A Little Original” would have made it into their game plan.
*1/2 (out of four)