“COPSHOP” is a breath of fresh air (not a reference to its gross-out tracheotomy scene) in the action/thriller genre. Its intelligent script with excellent plot twists and character development is brilliantly offset by bloody carnage and intense pursuit sequences. There literally is something for everybody in this inventive film.
The picture opens with theme music that reminded me of a 1970’s movie. Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo) is weaving through interstate traffic in a shot-up Crown Vic complete with a police light flashing on the dash.
The story cuts to Officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) talking with her commander, Sgt. Duane Mitchell (Chad L. Coleman) as he buys food. They get a call to come to a casino where a fight has broken out in a wedding party.
When they arrive, Murretto shows up and punches Young. She then tases and arrests him. They go back to the Gun Creek Police Station where we discover that Murretto has a gun wound. He is bandaged up before being put in a cell.
Meanwhile, two state troopers have found Murretto’s abandoned Crown Vic. As they are speaking with Mitchell via radio, a car approaches them and nearly kills them. When they apprehend the intoxicated driver, they bring him back to the station.
The drunk (Gerard Butler) is processed as a John Doe. He is put into a holding cell with another sot across from Murretto’s unit. John Doe is actually professional hitman Bob Viddick, sent to execute Murretto and to reclaim the money he skimmed from his bosses.
Back in the station proper, Officer Huber (Ryan O’Nan) is seen taking strange phone calls. Mitchell is on his case for not preparing proper evidence reports. When Huber goes down into the evidence locker, he is seen placing what appear to be packages of heroin or a similar drug into a satchel. When startled by another officer, he slides the bag out of sight.
Viddick arranges a distraction by attacking the other intoxicated prisoner, such that he cannot breathe. When Mitchell unlocks the cell to examine the injured party, Viddick knocks him unconscious and takes his keys to open Murretto’s cell. While he is doing this, Young gets the drop on him and handcuffs him to his cell bars.
Young has to perform a tracheotomy on the gasping prisoner. Mitchell is made to rest in the same medical room.
When Young goes back to the cell block to interrogate Viddick and Murretto, she discovers that Murretto is a political “fixer” who turned state’s evidence. He then decided to split but was taken by two alleged FBI agents to a deserted motel, where other parties engaged them in a shootout (hence the damaged Crown Vic). Escaping after being shot, he decided that he was safest in a jail cell where no one could reach him.
Complicating matters, since there is an open contract on Murretto, another hitman, Anthony Lamb (Toby Huss), arrives as a balloon-delivery man. He and his ally Huber proceed to shoot up the police station. Will one of the two hitmen kill Murretto? Who among the police, if any, will survive the carnage?
From the opening theme, I felt that the movie had a throwback feel. Certain other elements made me wonder. The computer software the police used seemed to be from the nineties, but they used flat screens not CRT’s. The keypad to the cell block also seemed like a relic of the past. But then Lamb comments on Murretto’s man-bun by comparing it to the “Last Samurai” (2003) in one of the many humorous remarks in the script.
The screenplay is indeed well-written. Just when you think that things are settled, something or someone arises to take the story in a different direction. The dialogue is often witty and comical, especially in the mouth of Lamb.
Another positive about the script is the attention given to minor characters. Even though they may not feature in many scenes and have minimal dialogue, you feel as if you know the police officers at the station. This added so much to the movie.
One recurring theme is how one’s personal values can be an asset or a detriment in different situations. Young is staunchly law-and-order. While Murretto is a con man, she is more disturbed by Viddick and his profession. Viddick argues that if she had just let him kill Murretto, they would not be facing the crazy Lamb. But Young could not contribute to “lawlessness.”
The film starkly points out both the murkiness of the underworld and how its violence can seep into what is ordinary life for most law-abiding citizens. The picture also highlights how quickly the mundanity of everyday police work can change into life-and-death situations.
The set for the police station is perfect. The openness of the public areas nicely contrasts with the claustrophobic feeling of the cell block.
The shots are deftly framed. I was impressed that the cinematography kept its clarity even during darker scenes. The propulsive score during the action sequences added much to the atmosphere of the scenes.
Alexis Louder and Toby Huss are the standouts here. Admittedly Huss has the juicier part. As a crazy hitman, he is allowed to delightfully chew the scenery, even while retaining his deadly nature.
Louder’s Young is brilliantly portrayed. From her diction to her physical mannerisms, she makes this character her own. She is absolutely convincing in everything that she does.
Yet the picture, despite all of its cerebral appeal, has enough action to please fans of shoot-outs and pyrotechnics. In fact, sometimes the shootings happen so quickly and casually that it can be shocking. A variety of guns are used to add to the mayhem’s appeal.
If I had one complaint, it would be that the final action sequence seemed a bit protracted, and unnecessarily so. But the final ending is so spot-on.
Fans of this genre will revel in this addition.
Four and a half out of five stars
Tearing through the Nevada desert in a bullet-ridden Crown Vic, wily con artist Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo) hatches a desperate plan to hide out from lethal hitman Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler): He sucker-punches rookie officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) to get himself arrested and locked up in a small-town police station. Jail can’t protect Murretto for long, and Viddick schemes his own way into detention, biding his time in a nearby cell until he can complete his mission. When the arrival of a competing assassin (Toby Huss) ignites all-out mayhem, mounting threats force Viddick to get creative if he wants to finish the job and escape the explosive situation.
Starring: Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo, Alexis Louder
Directed By: Joe Carnahan
Written By: Kurt McLeod, Joe Carnahan
"COPSHOP": A smart, carnage filled action-thriller
“COPSHOP” is a breath of fresh air in the action/thriller genre. Its intelligent script with excellent plot twists and character development is brilliantly offset by bloody carnage and intense pursuit sequences. There literally is something for everybody in this inventive film.