Wednesday, February 17, 2010


This is one of those movies that I saw the trailer for a million times on HBO as a kid but never actually got around to watching. Which is weird, because this is the kind of shit I ate up back then: sleazy L.A. cop movies full of perverts and saxophone music. About the only thing I remember from the trailer was James Woods looking fucking badass pumping a shotgun. A good shotgun-pumping has been known to improve any movie (I'd watch Driving Miss Daisy if someone assured me that at some point Morgan Freeman racks a Mossberg one-handed) but in Cop, it figures into one of the greatest movie endings of all time. You know how most movies will build to a climax, but then stick around for a few extra minutes while the characters walk through a parking lot full of ambulances, maybe repeating some dialogue from earlier in the movie in a different context? It's like the post-coital cigarette, giving you a chance to relax after the big explosion/orgasm. Cop doesn't play that shit. It's not gonna cuddle with you afterward and ask you if you had a good time. Fuck that. When it's done, it's fucking done. It just wipes its dick off on the curtains and bounces the fuck out. It probably won't even call you tomorrow. Cop is kind of a prick like that.

But that's what I like about it. Cop is an impolite, inconsiderate, cynical, antisocial movie for like-minded motherfuckers. It's a not exactly groundbreaking combination of a Dirty Harry-style rogue cop movie and a The Wire-style police procedural. Woods plays the title character, Joe Cop, who's a fast-talking, chain-smoking, workaholic sex addict. So yeah, he's James Woods, but with a gun. He works homicide in the neighborhood he grew up in, so he knows the streets inside and out and has little patience for his clock-punching colleagues who aren't as smart or as dedicated as he is. The first scene shows him scurrying around the cop-shop, doing everybody else's job for them. Then he gets all giddy because he gets a call for a 187, so he goes out to West Hollywood and kicks down a door. (Actually, he tries to kick down the door but it doesn't work. I've been waiting my whole life to see that in a movie. You ever try to kick down a fucking door? It's not as easy as it looks.) He finds a young woman's body hanging upside down over her bed, covered in blood. It's actually pretty fucking creepy, and it even kind of freaks out Sgt. Cop, who must have seen this kind of thing a million times. That doesn't stop him from doing his job, though, and we get the first of many scenes where we see Cop quietly examining the evidence and drawing conclusions. It's nice to see actual copwork in a movie called Cop.

Then we see Cop's human side when he goes home and tells his eight-year-old daughter a bedtime story about a drag queen he busted who used to run B&E's on doctor's offices on Sunset. She eats it up ("Tell me how you caught the scumbag, Daddy!"), but Mrs. Cop is not so thrilled. She thinks he's poisoning their daughter with his sick worldview, but he thinks he's preparing her for the world. He has this incredible speech about how innocence kills, and he wants his little girl to grow up knowing about the way things really are. The wife ain't having it, though, because she believes in unicorns and happy endings and shit, so Cop is actually psyched when he gets a call about an armed robbery suspect and has to get back to work. So he brings along his old buddy (vintage That Guy Charles Durning) and ends up blowing away the perp in front of the guy's date. Not two seconds after gunning a man down in the street, he's smooth-talking this chick and offering her a ride home. And she accepts! Fully half of this movie is Cop running around boning every broad he sees. He's characterized as an adrenaline junkie, looking for a fight or a fuck, whichever comes first.

What's kind of weird, though, is that although Cop is a total womanizer, he also has a real pet peeve about violence against women. I kept waiting for him to say that his dad used to beat his mom or something, but they never really explain it. But then again, why the fuck do you need a reason to be anti violence against women? Did your mom have to have been murdered when you were a kid for that particular topic to really piss you off? Then again, Cop is based on a novel by James Ellroy, whose mother really was murdered when he was a kid, so I guess I'll shut up now.

Anyway, long story short, Cop discovers that there's a serial killer on the loose, only nobody believes him, so he starts breaking into people's apartments and playing Russian Roulette with motherfuckers to get information. There's a genius segment in the middle of the movie where he picks up this feminist chick (Leslie Ann Warren, a.k.a. The Poor Man's Susan Sarandon) and convinces her that he's Mr. Sensitive while she lays out her sob story. The whole time, he says all the right things, but just from the look on his face you know that he's rolling his eyes on the inside. I'm telling you, this Cop guy's a prick, but it all feeds into that speech he made earlier. This feminist chick had some really bad shit happen to her, but instead of toughening her up, it made her turn inward and create a bunch of fantasies and delusions about white knights and fairy tales, shit that Cop finds pathetic and dangerous. But he still wants to get laid, so he plays along. It's kind of a brilliant scene because Cop is both funny and reprehensible at the same time, and he does it all with a crocodile smile and some pregnant pauses. It's some great capital-A Acting from Mr. Woods, whom I hear has one of the biggest dicks and highest IQs in Hollywood. Not sure what that has to do with anything, but I just thought I'd throw it out there.

It also has something to do with the plot (the scene, not James Woods' dick), which, in retrospect, is kind of haphazard and unconvincing, as most plots are if you really think about them. But that's not the point. The point is watching James Woods rip through this movie like a uranium-tipped bullet, never stopping, never swerving, never looking back, never giving a fuck about what he destroys on his path to his target. And once he hits it, boom, the movie's over. It does its dirty, sinful business and gets the fuck out. I appreciate that. I enjoy a long, drawn-out love-making session with the candles and the lotion and the fuzzy handcuffs as much as the next guy, but sometimes a rough and sticky quickie is even better.

I just hope Cop still respects me in the morning.

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