Copshop Review: Gerard Butler And Frank Grillo Face Off In Joe Carnahan's Trashy, Fun Actioner

Joe Carnahan made a name for himself with the brutal, intense cop drama "Narc." He followed that film up with "Smokin' Aces," a star-studded, rather messy shoot 'em up that was oozing with style, and far removed from the more serious tone of "Narc." Since then, Carnahan has occasionally dipped back into seriousness with entries like the criminally underrated "The Grey." But it's clear his heart belongs to pulpy trash where everyone is an ass, and everyone's got a gun. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that. When I say "trash," I say so lovingly. There's something refreshing about a trashy movie that knows it's trash and has no intention of being anything else. Carnahan's latest is "Copshop," which often feels like the smaller budgeted cousin to "Smokin' Aces." It's not a particularly great movie, and there's nothing here you probably haven't seen in half a dozen other action pics. And yet, there's a dirtbag charm to what Carnahan has cooked up here. You may not love what "Copshop" is doing, but you've gotta respect it. Here is a movie that knows exactly what it wants to do, and does it. It's a story of bad men, crooked cops, deep-seated corruption, and lots and lots of gunfire. 

As "Copshop" kicks off, well-dressed hustler Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo, sporting a man bun) has just gotten himself arrested for punching out rookie cop Valerie Young (Alexis Louder). The punch was deliberate because, unlike most people, Teddy wants to get locked up in jail. But he's about to have some company, because a wildly drunk man crashes his car into a cop car and ends up in the cell right next to Teddy's. But the drunk isn't really drunk. He's actually well-known hitman Bob Viddick, played by reigning B-movie king Gerard Butler. Viddick has been sent to kill Teddy because Teddy got in over his head working for some corrupt officials. He also stole some money, which is always a no-no in the criminal underworld. 

Grillo and Butler have both played these kinds of roles before, and it's fun to watch them shout vulgarities at each other. The two men have just the right amount of sleazy charm, with Grillo here looking like a Vegas magician and Butler ruddy and burly. This is almost like the trash movie version of De Niro and Pacino teaming up for "Heat," and there's probably considerable crossover between fans of Grillo and Butler and their particular brand of tough-guy acting. 

Before Bob can get to Teddy, things go south rather quickly. A corrupt cop inside the police station starts bumping off his fellow officers, and then yet another hitman arrives. That would be the psychotic Anthony Lamb, played with scene-stealing gusto by Toby Huss. Huss' unhinged performance ends up stealing a lot of the limelight from Butler and Grillo, but that's not such a bad thing — it's a lot of fun to watch him act like a nutjob. 

Fried Cheese Entertainment

Soon, all the cops at the station are dead except Valerie, who has to decide if she can trust either Bob or Teddy before Lamb kills them all. And thus the stage is set for a one-location stand-off akin to John Carpenter's "Assault on Precinct 13," or the horror flick "Demon Knight," which feels like it would make a great double-feature with "Copshop." Eventually, the film will have to give us what we really want — Grillo vs. Butler: Dawn of Angry Beard Guys. But first, they'll have to survive long enough.

I want to be very clear: "Copshop" is a rather simple movie. For all its twists and turns and flashbacks, the whole thing boils down to a story about violent men trying to kill each other while a female cop is caught in the middle. And that's fine! There's nothing wrong with simplicity, and I have a feeling fans of trashy actioners of yesteryear will get a kick out of how stripped-down Carnahan has made this thing. Those with a thirst for constant gunfire and torrents of blood are going to get what they want.

But none of this results in "Copshop" being as good as it could be. Carnahan has a knack for stylish action, and all the pieces are in place here for something special. But "Copshop" never quite gets there. While Alexis Louder brings plenty of verve to her part, her character just isn't very interesting. And as fun as it is to watch Butler and Grillo spar, the movie keeps them apart way too long. Butler spends almost the entire movie sitting on the floor handcuffed to some prison bars. When he's finally let out we get to watch him kick into gear, but it comes a little too late. The script, by Carnahan and Kurt McLeod, also doesn't seem to have a grasp on who Grillo's Teddy is, and what his motivations are. 

But the target audience for "Copshop" isn't going to care about those things. They want to watch Gerard Butler fire a shotgun repeatedly into someone's face, and they're going to get that here. They're also going to get man bun Frank Grillo and over-the-top murderer Toby Huss, and all of that stuff will likely congeal into a kind of fried cheese entertainment. In the end, "Copshop" is aggressively okay, and that'll probably be more than enough for most viewers. 

/Film Rating: 6 out of 10