A relatively useless undertaking, the 2014 bro-cop comedy Let’s Be Cops leans heavily on its mindless formula to get by. This is paint-by-numbers stuff, the sort of hollow filmmaking that blends broad comedy with violence and comes up with an obligatory happy ending. There are no real consequences and the 30-something leads learn their compulsory cornball life lessons just in time for the credits.
Oddly, there’s nothing that even hints at rebelliousness in Let’s Be Cops and it avoids any manner of social commentary. Rather than opt for risk-taking, Luke Greenfield’s squelchy movie goes through all the usual paces and has the protagonists contend with identity crises. It’s the same architecture of other pictures of this lineage, only this time police impersonation substitutes for a trip to Vegas.
Justin (Damon Wayans, Jr.) and Ryan (Jake Johnson) are two buddies living in Los Angeles. They made a pact to move back to Ohio if nothing was happening for them by the time they reached their 30s. Justin is a video game designer but he can’t sell his big cop game, while Ryan was a former football star who couldn’t go pro. Life is, obviously, terrible.
After a mix-up at a party, Ryan and Justin are dressed as police officers and decide to have a bit of fun with their costumes. Ryan takes the gag further, buying a cop car off of the Internet and getting a police scanner. They start responding to actual calls, which gets them involved with a gang of Albanians. Justin wants to turn back, but Ryan is determined to crack the case and stop the gang.
Rob Riggle stars as a real police officer who crosses paths with Ryan and Justin, while Nina Dobrev has a purposeless gig as Josie. She’s the waitress/love interest for Justin and her basic job is to listen to his lies, get mad and eventually take the right course of action so her character can maintain her essential worthlessness. The movie needs that happy ending, right?
The gangsters are just as one-dimensional. James D’Arcy stars as Mossi, the lead bad guy, while Andy Garcia is somehow in this thing as Detective Brolin. There are shootouts involving the gang and the action mostly develops from an early slight at a nightclub, where a group of people laugh at Ryan and Justin’s car to remind the audience that the two leads are “losers” in Los Angeles.
The protagonists are further humiliated when they show up at a masquerade party dressed as cops. Ryan misunderstood the concept, which leads to the necessary plot contrivances. Of course, the party also features the mandatory regret-building narrative. Several friends and former friends ask “where are you now?” questions, cementing Ryan and Justin’s diminished self-esteem. Damn, L.A.
With everything in place for a losers-make-good narrative, Let’s Be Cops merely goes through the motions and lands at its conclusion. One of the characters actually becomes a cop, despite impersonating a police officer and going out on actual calls. Everything just works out, somehow, and that deflates any possibility of comeuppance or subversion in this flimsy comedy.
Let’s Be Cops is just dull and routine. The humour comes from a mix of repetitive sitcom stuff, like a guy teaching football to kids and dominating them all, to low-risk sleaze. There’s a scene involving a portly naked guy and his nuts are showing, plus there are other moments of “ew, gross” rejoinders that remind the audience the two leads aren’t into any of that funny stuff.
For a film presumably about two 30-somethings going through a rough patch, Let’s Be Cops treats its characters and its audience like a bunch of pre-teen boys. It’s a lumbering, meaningless exercise in following the rules of bro comedy to the absolute letter. Now if that’s not worth a few months in the slammer, nothing is.