Review: ‘Copshop’ (2021), starring Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo

September 8, 2021

by Carla Hay

Frank Grillo (center) in “Copshop” (Photo courtesy of Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment)

“Copshop” (2021)

Directed by Joe Carnahan

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional city of Gun Creek, Nevada, the action film “Copshop” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class, middle-class and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A con artist, who has landed in jail for assaulting a cop, finds out that more than one person in the jail is out to kill him because of his past alliance with a murdered district attorney.

Culture Audience: “Copshop” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stars Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo and like seeing a movie with a badly conceived story and a lot of unrealistic violence.

Gerard Butler in “Copshop” (Photo courtesy of Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment)

“Copshop” can’t decide if it wants to be a gritty action flick or a wacky crime comedy. The result is that this creatively bankrupt film is an incoherent mess. The dialogue is awful, the acting is mediocre, and it’s just a time-wasting excuse to be a “shoot ’em up” flick with a nonsensical plot. Directed by Joe Carnahan, who co-wrote the “Copshop” screenplay with Kurt McLeod, “Copshop” is filled with lazy tropes that a lot of audiences dislike about mindless, violent movies.

“Copshop” over-relies on these tiresome clichés: Characters sustain major injuries that would put them in a hospital, but then these same characters miraculously move around less than an hour later as if they’ve got nothing but bruises. People draw guns on each other with the intent to kill, but then they spend a ridiculous amount of time giving dumb speeches or trading insults instead of shooting. And worst of all: “Copshop” constantly plays tricks on viewers about who’s really dead and who’s really alive.

All of that might be excused if the action scenes were imaginative, if the storylines were exciting and/or if the characters’ personalities were appealing. But most of the principal characters in “Cop Shop” are hollow and forgettable. The fight scenes are monotonous and nothing that fans of action flicks haven’t already seen in much better movies.

“Copshop” takes place in the fictional Nevada city of Gun Creek, which is in the middle of a desert. (“Copshop” was actually filmed in New Mexico and Georgia.) Gun Creek is a fairly small city, which is why there are only about six or seven cops on duty at the Gun Creek Police Department’s headquarters, where most of the action takes place when the police department goes under siege one night. You know a movie is bad when guns and bombs are going off in a police department, and yet the cops are too stupid to try to call for help immediately.

Nothing about this police department and its jail looks authentic. Before the chaos breaks out, everything is too neat, too quiet and too clean in the cops’ office space and in the jail. In other words, everything looks like a movie set. This phoniness just lowers the quality of this already lowbrow movie.

And the cinematography went overboard in trying to make the jail look “edgy,” because it’s too dark inside. And yet the jail cells are spotless. Jail cells aren’t supposed to look like a sleek underground nightclub. This movie is such a bad joke.

The gist of the moronic story is that Theodore “Teddy” Morretto (played by Frank Grillo) is a con artist who’s on the run from an assassin. In one part of the movie, Teddy describes himself as some kind of power broker who likes to introduce powerful people to each other and help fix their problems. He doesn’t like to call himself a “fixer” though. He likes to call himself a “manufacturer.”

One of the people whom Teddy had past dealings with was an attorney general named Fenton (played by Dez), who has been murdered. This crime has made big news in the area. Because of information that Teddy knows, he figures that he’s next on the hit list of whoever wanted Fenton dead.

In case it wasn’t clear that someone wants Teddy to be killed, a flashback scene shows that a bomb was set in Teddy’s car, it exploded, and he barely escaped with his life. His clothes caught on fire, but then later in the story, there’s no mention of him having the kind of burn injuries that he would’ve gotten from the types of flames spread on his body. It’s just sloppy screenwriting on display.

Teddy has come up with a plan to hide out for a while. He deliberately gets himself arrested because he thinks he’ll be “safer” in jail. Teddy disrupts a nighttime wedding reception at a casino, where a brawl is happening outdoors. When the police show up, Teddy assaults one of the cops and literally pleads for a cop to use a taser on him.

The cop who obliges his request is rookie Valerie Young (played by Alexis Louder), who is measured and sarcastic in her interactions with people. On the same night that Teddy is hauled into the police station and put in a jail cell, an anonymous drunk man who has no identification is also arrested and put in the jail cell across from Teddy. The other man got arrested because he crashed his car into a highway fence, right in front of two patrol officers who were parked nearby.

It turns out (and this isn’t spoiler information) that this other arrestee is really an assassin named Bob Viddick (played by Gerard Butler), who is somewhat of a legend among the criminals in Nevada. Somehow, Bob found out that Teddy was in the police department’s jail, and he got himself arrested because he’s been assigned to murder Teddy. And just so you know how incompetent this police department is, Bob has smuggled a gun into the jail cell.

The rest of “Copshop” is literally a bunch of shootouts, as the police station goes under siege when another assassin shows up. He’s a lunatic gangster named Anthony Lamb (played by Toby Huss), and he wants to kill Teddy, Bob and everyone else in the building, except for a corrupt cop who has access to a large haul of confiscated drugs that Anthony wants. This criminal cop is named Huber (played by Ryan O’Nan), and he owes Anthony a lot of money.

Huber is one of the cops in charge of the inventory/evidence at the police department. Huber plans to steal several bricks of what looks like cocaine, in order to pay off his debts to Anthony. It’s a dumb plan because this police department is so small that it would be easy to figure out who took the drug stash.

Huber already looks suspicious, because he’s been sweaty and acting nervous all night. Here’s an example of the movie’s terrible dialogue. When a fellow cop notices that Huber has been acting furtive and preoccupied with the inventory room, he asks Huber, “What’s got you so curious?” Huber replies, “Curiosity.”

Rookie cop Valerie is telegraphed early on as the one who will be the movie’s big hero. But she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. When she looks up Teddy’s criminal record, she’s astonished to see that he’s been arrested 22 times but no charges were ever filed against him. “How does that happen?” she asks a fellow cop in the office. Can you say “confidential informant,” Valerie?

Despite being saddled with a horrible script, Louder’s wisecracking depiction of Valerie is one of the few things that can be considered close to a highlight of “Copshop.” The other is the nutty performance of Huss as mobster Anthony, who is a scene stealer. How unhinged is Anthony? He starts singing in the middle of the mayhem. “Copshop” uses Curtis Mayfield’s 1972 hit “Freddie’s Dead” has a recurring song in more than one scene.

However, there’s nothing about any of the characters in the movie that can be considered outstanding enough for audiences to be clamoring for a sequel. Butler and Grillo are two of the producers of “Copshop,” so they’re partially to blame for how this embarrassing schlock turned out, but Carnahan (also a “Copshop” producer) is the one who’s chiefly responsible. It’s not the first time they’ve done these types of unimpressive B-movies, and it won’t be the last time.

Open Road Films and Briarcliff Entertainment will release “Copshop” in U.S. cinemas on September 17, 2021. The movie had a one-night-only sneak preview in U.S. cinemas on September 8, 2021.