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"Cop Out' doesn't work

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Cop Out

(R)

•1/2 (out of 5)

There are a few different ways to look at the new buddy cop film "Cop Out," and unfortunately for the movie, it only works as one of them.

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The film follows two long-term detective partners who are struggling with their own personal issues. Jimmy (Bruce Willis) is dealing with a bitter ex-wife who wants her new, rich husband to pay for their daughter's wedding. Paul (Tracy Morgan) is a bumbling junior partner who fears that his hot wife is cheating on him.

When Jimmy tries to sell a rare baseball card to pay for his daughter's wedding, the store is robbed, and the thieves take the card. Jimmy and Paul try to recover the stolen card, which leads them to a conspiracy with a local Mexican gang.

On the surface, one might be tempted to think this is a good cop film with Bruce Willis as the centerpiece. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't work that way at all. With Tracy Morgan as the goofy character, that leaves Willis as the straight man. The problem with that is that Willis just brings a different version of John McClane from "Die Hard," and that really isn't a straight man to anyone's Jerry Lewis.

In this sense, Willis seems confused as to whether he's supposed to be the seasoned cop or the unstable powder keg. He still pulls off the look, but not the character.

Another way to look at this movie is as a Kevin Smith film. It's the first feature he's directed that he hasn't also written. Smith once mentioned that he was uncomfortable making an action movie because it would feature the main characters talking on the sidelines while the action happened off screen.

Smith was right. Action is not his forte. Rather than being a solid cop film, which you would expect having Bruce Willis as the star, we're left with a very amateurish attempt. The cinematography teeters between the standard bland Dave Klein set-ups from "Clerks" or "Mallrats" and some edgy shots that seem to be experiments from watching too many police procedural shows on TV. Sadly, this leaves only one way for "Cop Out" to work: as a Tracy Morgan vehicle. Let's face it, the movie and the advertising campaign is all about his shenanigans. Bruce Willis is nothing more than a Roger Murtaugh to Morgan's Martin Riggs (in a much less talented way). And heck, if Kevin Smith hadn't been bumped from his Southwest flight a week or so back, which resulted in a bunch of news stories with the final line reading, "Smith is the director of the new Bruce Willis movie 'Cop Out,'" you'd never know he was in charge of this.

So the bottom line is if you love Tracy Morgan, you're going to like this movie. I, for one, hate Tracy Morgan.

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