Joe Carnahan’s CopShop

It’s always cool when one of my favourite filmmakers not only puts out two films in the same year, but that they both end up being ones I absolutely love. Joe Carnahan gave us the knockout action SciFi Boss Level earlier in 2021 (highly recommended) and now we have CopShop, a tough as shit, gritty as fuck, funny as hell homage to the lower budget, one location cop thrillers of the 70’s, particularly one I need not name drop but pretty much set the bar, and whose influences are there. Hitting new collaborative notes in his ongoing working relationship with Carnahan is Frank Grillo, who also headlined Boss Level and here plays greasy, self centred mob fixer Teddy, wanted by several hitman including gruff, violent Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler) and off the chain mega-psychopath Anthony Lamb (Toby Huss). Teddy deliberately gets himself thrown into county lockup which he thinks will be safe, but both contract killers follow him there for a bloody showdown as cops are picked off one by one, a cat and mouse game ensues and we gradually learn more about these characters. Grillo uses his hair as an asset to performance here and it’s hilarious to the point where one character makes fun of it in reference to a Tom Cruise flick. Butler is mean, efficient and darkly sarcastic while Huss, never an actor to back down from a challenge, is a terrifying nightmare tornado of perverse looney toons energy, a seriously diabolical, constantly hilarious and severely scary villain for the ages. As great as these three actors are, the real star of the show and my favourite character is Alexis Louder as Valerie, the toughest cop in the county and the real protagonist amidst this stable of shady scumbags. She’s terrifically resilient and charismatic, owning the emotional grounding, dark humour and lethal physicality of her role to the point where I wanted to see a sequel with just her pitted against a whole new roster of baddies. The film has Carnahan’s typically realistic, candid dialogue that I always appreciate so much and a kinetic, propulsive forward momentum that is reminiscent of his excellent 2006 Smokin Aces, although much lower in pitch, tone and budget. I enjoyed the morally sticky, ambiguous nature of Butler and Grillo’s characters who are genuinely hard to read and predict, while Huss’s mad dog cavorts around the precinct like a bull in a CopShop. This was a ton of fun for what it was, and I love seeing mean, unapologetically brutal, off the cuff genre efforts still surface in this day and age. Great times.

-Nate Hill