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Bon Cop Bad Cop (2006)

by on 2011/07/11

“Did you take Ritalin as a child?”

* * *

Here we go again . . . another of those occasional critiques written out of obligation. Arguably the third most (financially) successful movie in Canadian history to date, a lot of people have affection for — or just interest in — Bon Cop Bad Cop. I’d seen it once before and didn’t share that sentiment, despite a personal interest in CanCon.

Still, knowing how I felt and remembering why I did are two different things, which precluded a review until now. With dread in memory, and hope in my heart, I sat down once again, and was reminded of my reasons for indifference.

Someone — the silliest villain ever — is kidnapping members of the hockey community. Victims’ bodies show up, dead and tattooed, across Ontario and Quebec. In fact, the first is found precisely on the border, prompting a partnership between bickering rival cops, David Bouchard (Patrick Huard) and Martin Ward (Colm Feore of Thirty Two Short Films fame).

Bouchard is a Quebecois slacker with an ex-wife (cough-love-interest-cough) and a difficult daughter (cough-leverage-cough). Ward’s an uptight Torontonian with an alterna-chic sister (cough-love-interest-cough) and aspiring DJ son (cough-foil-cough). Each takes an immediate disliking to the other but, unsurprisingly, they become good buddies by the end. (Does anyone really believe that was a spoiler?)

However, en route to the land of milk and honey, they must overcome their insignificant cultural differences and delusions of a language barrier. Their race to stop a psychotic (and bilingual) hockey fan is assisted by his inexplicable branding of his prey with clues. Even tougher, they must endure a Don Cherry caricature called Tom Berry (Rick Mercer). (Do I really need to say cough-comic-relief-cough here?)

As you may gather from my description, I find the culture-shock gimmick overdone. The English/French dichotomy is simply way belaboured. At the first crime scene, sure. In the police station, oh-kay. In the morgue, getting silly now. In the bar fight, getting worse. After then, forever after . . . more than enough is enough.

I imagined a writer with no sense of humour — desperately longing for laughs — had suddenly discovered a gimmick he could employ . . . somewhere, anywhere, everywhere. What might have been funny otherwise becomes a failing, distracting and interfering, right to the end.

And can we please put a moratorium on the incessant tabernac puns? I’m nearly as big a fan of wordplay as you’re likely to find, but come on. Not since Fantastic Mr. Fox has “cussing” been as unwelcome. While I appreciate some profanity, I thought of a warning a teacher once gave: swearing is often a substitute for knowing what to say. What exactly is Bad Cop trying to say with this verbal barrage?

Couple these language issues with some strange character tendencies. Bouchard is so very over the top, he’s too manic to buy as a cop. (That’s where the Ritalin line comes in.) His police chief (Pierre Lebeau) is a blustering incompetent, a malaprop-spewing Bill Shatner type. Jeff in the morgue (Louis-Jose Houde) is a rapid-fire babbler. Suspect Luc Therrien (Sylvain Marcel) is an oafish De Niro joke.

Why is every Quebecois male here eccentric in the extreme? Are we to believe their culture is one defined by Jacques Clouseau? They become tiresome. By comparison, the Ontarians are all-knowing professionals, with the women cool, kindly, and rational.

A similar schizoid sentiment drives the unfunny humour throughout. An uneasy coexistence of goofiness and grit keeps the whole from succeeding in either sphere. A body torn in two, a skate-bisected skull, a frightened girl tied to a bomb . . . these images coexist in the same unreality as characters named Harry Buttman, Martina Flabcheeks, and a slapstick beaver mascot.

The best scenes by far are those where the characters gather for family meals, retelling the past and revealing their hopes for the future. Another funny scene involves the destruction of a grow-op, leaving the partners stoned and less combative. Unfortunately, even this joke is overplayed, descending to “munchies” convention.

I’d be remiss to end my discussion without addressing the visuals. Two words: “green” and “grainy”. The stock fits the era, if not the geography of its peers. Cinematography and editing jump into the fray, with shaky-cam, quick cuts, jumps, and varied speeds. It all piles on chaotically, lacking weight, momentum, and energy.

Ready for some praise? Colm Feore, it seems, can do little wrong. The pyrotechnic special effects were good. I also liked the score by Michel Corriveau. And the general concept of culture shock is fine, though I found it less than ideally realized here.

It’s like the NHL asked the CBC to do a parody of Seven. It was never likely to be my cup of tea. A constant oscillation between two incompatible moods is less a whole new genre than a wash. Quirky past interest to irritation, it targets an audience of cliched Canadians, with an outsider’s hyper-stylized notion of CanCon.

The trailer looks compelling so, by all means, give it a go. As for the feature itself, Bon Cop Bad Cop is only so-so or — in its own parlance — Grim Ci, Dumb Ca.

* * *

Rated 14A

118 minutes

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