The Sundance Film Festival programmers who select the New Frontier and Park City at Midnight films have long relished in the fact that they get to choose some of the most bizarre movies for their venues. These are movies that don’t fit the general Sundance mold and instead go above and beyond the call of Robert Redford. Last year, we had Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie as a tentpole for these types of movies, burning the “Shrim” scene into our brains forever.
This year, one of the New Frontier “films” is an episodic series of shorts glued together by director Quentin Dupieux, who previously gave us the Fantastic Fest favorites Rubber and its followup, Wrong. While shooting the latter with actor Mark Burnham, Dupieux had the idea to make Wrong Cops as a project to highlight the music he creates under the name Mr. Olzo. So, they got a camera and shot the thing in three days. The result, which the filmmakers refer to as “Wrong Cops: Part 1,” is a mishmash of sketch and situation comedy that leaves you feeling like you’ve just watched a rehearsal for an unfinished skit.
The storyline revolves around the fact that in the near future crime in Los Angeles has decreased to such a low level that cops are now bored with their jobs. So they turn to sidelines and diversions to entertain themselves. Burnham’s cop sells weed stuffed inside the bodies of dead rats while trying to edify the musical tastes of an angsty teen, played by Marilyn Manson, while Eric Wareheim (of Tim & Eric fame) tries unsuccessfully to see breasts at gunpoint. Each episode revolves around a different bit of wrong cop-isms, without one main through-line holding it all together.
The most glaring issue with Wrong Cops is that what we’re seeing is only a fraction of the finished product. The producers were able to go back and film more episodes, which they say will be assembled into a finished film. But treating an audience to 45 minutes of meandering storylines that go nowhere is the equivalent of giving someone half a novel and expecting to get a complete reaction from them.
Despite the limitations of this truncated format, there are some gems throughout the episodes. Burnham is fantastically hideous as that wrongest cop of the bunch, sneering his way through most of his scenes, reveling in the disgust and filth of his world. Steve Little proves that he can leave Stevie from Eastbound & Down behind (although not too far behind) as a detective trying to hide a secret. And Wareheim’s moments are humorous at times, but mostly he’s playing the exact same sorts of roles he plays in his Tim & Eric endeavors.
While we’ll reserve complete judgement for the completed film, Wrong Cops ultimately disappoints with what we’ve come to expect from Dupieux. Here’s hoping the final product comes together and works a bit better.
Upside: Even though this represents only one third of a film, there is enough off-the-wall humor to sustain things for 45 minutes. You can credit that to the comedic performances of all involved, particularly Burnham and Little.
Downside: While we loved Rubber and Wrong, if this gets finished and expanded out to a feature film, it seems like it may wear out its welcome early. In the current uncompleted form, it feels like it would make for a better webseries than a feature.
On the Side: This project features a lot of the music of Dupieux’s musical alter ego Mr. Olzo, who was responsible for the Flat Eric commercials directed by Dupieux, along with his infectious muscal track “Flat Beat.”