Mid-America at the Movies: "Copshop" and Rob's farewell

Robert Maharry
The Grundy Register

Beloved readers of the Mid-America at the Movies-- and I hope there are a lot of you-- it has been an honor and a privilege to grace these pages on a weekly basis. As of October 4, I will be taking on a new title as the managing editor of the Marshalltown Times-Republican, and thus, my duties as one half of the greatest Iowa-based movie reviewing duo of the 21st century will come to an end. 


Don’t fret, however, because the show will go on, and Bridget will still be here to dish out her takes on the latest releases and retrospectives on can’t miss classics. I want to thank everyone who has corresponded with us-- especially David Splett and his detailed and enthusiastic responses to the column-- and I hope that if you’ve enjoyed any of our thoughts, you won’t hesitate to reach out in the future. 


Bridget was traveling over the weekend, so she let me fly solo on my last hurrah. I have to admit, though, that it was difficult to find a film worth seeing in a theater amidst an underwhelming slate before awards season revs into high gear in the coming months. I read enough on the backlash to “Dear Evan Hansen” to decide I didn’t want to go out on a negative note, but I’d heard good things about a little action thriller called “Copshop” directed by Joe Carnahan (known for the “The Grey,” “Boss Level” and “Smokin’ Aces”) and starring the always reliable Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo. 


Was it worth the trip to the multiplex? Let’s find out! 


Before we get to the main attraction, are there any other movies that might prepare viewers for the all-out action onslaught of “Copshop?”


It’s become something of an unlikely cult classic among a certain subset of film fans over the last few years, so I’ll join the chorus and say that I absolutely love the 2018 heist thriller “Den of Thieves” starring Butler as the most divorced man in the history of the world who also works as an LA County Sheriff’s Deputy tasked with stopping an elite unit of bank robbers led by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Pablo Schreiber. It wears its influences on its sleeve, and fans of “Heat” will notice more than a passing similarity between the two. But “Den of Thieves” stands on its own as a riveting action movie that showcases Butler’s unique charms, and he chugs a bottle of Pepto Bismol. If nothing else, watch it for that. 


Alright, Rob, play it back one last time and send us out with your thoughts on “Copshop.” 


Action movies, we’re often told, aren’t what they used to be, and there aren’t many true heroes left in the mold of Schwarzengger, Stallone and company. Gerard Butler, along with previous column subject Liam Neeson, is one of the last carriers of the torch, and he delivers another solid, sturdy performance in the genre alongside Grillo and relative newcomer Alexis Louder in “Copshop.” 


Fans of the classic 1959 Howard Hawks/John Wayne western “Rio Bravo” and its urban quasi-remake “Assault on Precinct 13” might recognize the plot setup: a police station becomes the setting for a violent standoff between dangerous criminals and the officers in charge of keeping them under control. This time, it goes down in the small, fictional town of Gun Creek City, Nevada, and the bad guy who causes all of the trouble is Teddy Moretto (Grillo), a man on the run arrested for punching a cop (Louder) during a skirmish outside of a casino. 


It’s soon revealed that he committed that crime on purpose to get him in jail and protected from a hitman named Bob Viddick (Butler) sent to collect a bounty on his head. Viddick, who’s booked as John Doe before his prints come through, fakes a DUI to ensure he winds up in the same facility, and when his face is revealed, Moretto knows he’s in for a bad night in the slammer. 


What initially appears to be a pair of unrelated incidents is something far more sinister: the state’s attorney general has been murdered, and the leader of the agency investigating the hit mysteriously has no leads on the perpetrator, who just happens to be incarcerated in Gun Creek City. 


Valerie Young (Louder), the inexperienced and somewhat naive cop, finds herself caught in a crossfire she never could have bargained for, and she soon realizes that she can’t even trust one of her fellow officers or a balloon delivery man named Anthony Lamb (Toby Huss), the most ridiculous character in a film full of outsized personalities. It’s last man (or woman) standing, and no one is safe as the bullets fly and the body count rises substantially. 


In its opening frames, “Copshop” commences with credits straight from a ‘70s exploitation movie through the filter of ‘90s Quentin Tarantino, and at times, Grillo looks like a dead ringer for Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi from the iconic Robert Rodriguez trilogy. The core of the film, however, lands somewhere closer to the postmodern brutalist action thrillers of S. Craig Zahler (“Brawl in Cell Block 99” and “Dragged Across Concrete,” in particular). Attempts to philosophize and place the events in a larger context-- in one exchange, Young explains that her North African grandfather fought for the Nazis during World War II, for some reason-- seem misguided, but at an hour and 48 minutes, the movie doesn’t waste too much time beating around the bush. 


It isn’t for the faint of heart, and it unequivocally earns its R-rating. But if you’re in the mood for an old fashioned shoot ‘em up with just enough plot to string you along to the end, give “Copshop” a chance. And let’s all hope that Butler keeps making action movies for as long as he lives. 


Rob’s rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars. 

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for reading all 25 of these columns, if you made it that far. Bridget will be back with a new edition next week, and as always, send her your feedback or topic ideas at news@wrightcountymonitor.com. In the meantime, keep on watching movies!


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