You just know that Copshop is going to be something special the moment Frank Grillo appears on the screen. No, it’s not his presence alone — he’s always a welcome performer, but with eight films released this year we’re not exactly starving for Grillo content — but instead, it’s his hair. For the first time in what feels like years he’s traded in his short sides and meticulously tousled top for a man bun, and it fits his character perfectly. Even better? He’s just one of many pieces in Joe Carnahan‘s wildly entertaining action/comedy that’ll have you smiling, satisfied, and itching for more.
Teddy Murretto (Grillo) is a man on the run, and with threats closing in he makes the only move open to him in the middle of rural Nevada — he punches a cop to land a safe respite behind bars. Officer Young (Alexis Louder) is the cop in question, and her night is about to get even worse. Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler) is hauled in for drunk driving, but it’s merely a ruse to get close to Teddy, and while the pair begin by trading insults and threats between the bars it escalates into a bloody free-for-all when a third man arrives. Tony Lamb (Toby Huss) is a professional killer with an array of deadly skills and sense of humor to match, and now, my friends, it is a party.
Carnahan’s best films remain his two stabs at more serious fare (Narc, 2002; The Grey, 2011), but his heart seems to belong to big action and ridiculous laughs. From his 1998 debut (Blood, Guts, Bullets, and Octane) through the likes of Smokin’ Aces (2006), The A-Team (2010), and Boss Level (2021), his genre tastes are clear, but while each of those films have their charms the parts have typically outshined the whole. Copshop then marks the first of these efforts to nail each beat to deliver an absolute blast from start to finish.
Minor scrapes aside, the film’s first half is mostly focused on character, setup, and entertaining build-up as Teddy and Bob banter while Young gets irritated by the assholes and idiots in her vicinity. The dynamic comes clear but the script (by Carnahan and Kurt McLeod) leaves room for additional wrinkles in the form of dirty cops and later reveals. The bulk of the beats feel familiar enough, starting with its riff on John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), but Carnahan and his cast do great work making this entirely their own.
Grillo and Butler are both fantastic and dig heartily into their polar opposite tough guys. The tension between the two manages to be both thrilling and very funny — you know one of them won’t be walking away at the end, but the ride to that outcome helps make Copshop a good time. Huss, meanwhile, has the difficult task of crafting a bigger than life killer, the kind of smartass murderer who only exists in movies, and the type that too often grows obnoxious and tiresome. He falls into neither trap and instead finds big laughs even he makes his cruelty clear. “You’re in the cop business,” he says to Young at one point, “so that makes you a murderer. But I’m in the murder business, so that just makes me a laborer.” You know he’s villain because he insults Ed Zwick’s The Last Samurai (2003), but you can’t help but love the bastard anyway.
Heavy-hitting scene stealers surround her, but Louder’s Officer Young still manages to be Copshop‘s standout. She’s a good cop in a sea of filth and incompetence — the latter offers a minor misstep in the form of some very stupid police officers, but Huss calls them on it in grand fashion — but she’s no angel. There’s enough to her character and performance that you’ll be hoping Carnahan and friends find some way to continue the story. The film leaves an open door of sorts as to where things could go, but any path featuring Louder’s more than capable and pissed off cop is a path worth taking.
Character pieces in place, the film explodes into action in its back half as elements come together, personalities and loyalties clash, and Huss’ balloon-carrying killer arrives on the scene. Carnahan and cinematographer Juan Miguel Azpiroz take full advantage of the police station’s geography and capture the unfolding carnage with a clear eye for action. The third act becomes one big shootout with shifting rooms and different fingers on the triggers, and it’s rarely less than thrilling. Composer Clinton Shorter elevates the good times further with a score that keeps pace, sets the tone, and jiggles the eardrums.
Copshop is a blast, full stop. While irrelevant to this review, it’s worth noting that both Carnahan and Grillo are reportedly (and very visibly) unhappy with the film as it exists — it’s apparently not their preferred cut — and that’s unfortunate… especially as it’s one of the best/most entertaining films that either have made in years. Hopefully they get their version into the world at a later date, but for now don’t sleep on the one that’s been released.