Shitty Movie Sundays: Cop (1988)

Cop 1988 movie posterNormally, if there were a trailer available on YouTube, it would be posted here, but not this time. The trailer for Cop spoils the ending. We can’t have that.

What a gloriously stupid movie. I knew heading in that any movie produced by, and starring, James Woods as a lone-wolf detective hunting a serial killer would be an adventure. Cop is more than that, however. It is an absolute howler. It is amongst the most over-indulgent Hollywood vanity projects I’ve ever seen, from an actor who doesn’t know the first thing about nuance.

The highlights:

  • Woods, playing Sgt. Lloyd Hopkins, stakes out a suspected armed robber with his supervisor, Lt. Dutch Peltz, played by Charles Durning. The suspect pulls up to the curb with his date, Hopkins and Dutch confront him, and Hopkins blows the suspect away after he pulls a pistol on Dutch. That’s fine. But then, Hopkins takes the date from the car, who is ambivalent about the whole thing, and leaves the scene to drive her home because she has a nice rack. It’s implied he sleeps with her. I guess that means it was a good shoot.
  • Hopkins tracks down a former actress turned call girl (Randi Brooks), following up a lead on the serial killings, and, wouldn’t you know it? They have sex in the kitchen while bacon is sizzling in a pan nearby. This happens the very scene after Hopkins’ wife leaves him and takes the kid.
  • Hopkins goes to the residence of feminist poet and bookstore owner Kathleen McCarthy (Lesley Ann Warren) to follow up another lead. He’s as gruff and pigheaded as one would expect any clichéd cop from an ’80s film to be, but McCarthy doesn’t seem to care all that much. You see, she’s a feminist only because the right man has never come along to sweep her off of her feet. Lo and behold, that could be Hopkins. He talks her into a date, and later a trip to the bedroom, because he’s the first man who’s been man enough to do so.
  • Hopkins follows another lead to the home of an LA County Sheriff’s Deputy (Charles Haid) who happens to be running male prostitutes. Hopkins then kills the deputy after the deputy goes for a shotgun, but he never faces any repercussions for this, despite having broken into the deputy’s home without a warrant, while also being under suspension from the LAPD.

All this and more can be the viewer’s, should they choose to watch Cop. Come for the drama, stay for the laughs.

Written, directed, and also produced by James B. Harris (who has produced and directed some excellent films), adapting a novel by James Ellroy, Cop falls into every gluttonous trope that plagues the silliest noir and detective films. There’s never a moment when fantasy gives way to realism, and never a moment when Harris and Woods don’t follow their worst filmmaking instincts. Viewers would be hard-pressed to find a more outlandish depiction of a police officer who stays the good guy throughout the film. Hopkins is a liar, a cheat, a killer, reckless to the point of self-destruction, and a slave to his emotions. It would be a nightmare to live in a city that had a police force full of Hopkins’s.

It sure is a joy to watch, though. It’s fun in the same way it’s fun to imagine an American military full of guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s fun in the same way it’s fun to imagine that every roadhouse and dive bar is plagued by furniture-destroying fights every night and policed by a cadre of bouncers with degrees in philosophy. It’s fun in the same way it’s fun to imagine that every dojo owner in the Los Angeles area will eventually have to avenge the death of their master and fight hordes of ninjas.

It’s also fun to imagine Roger Ebert and other top critics sitting through this film and thinking they were watching anything other than trash. But, one doesn’t need an imagination for that. Cop, as of this writing, has an 83% score from critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Now that’s fun.

If one is looking for a serious detective story, or a true gritty noir flick, look elsewhere. If one would like to see how far a cop film can go without completely flying to pieces, then this is the film to watch. Congratulations, all involved. You have made the dumbest cop movie I’ve seen since Cobra. Cop breaks into the hallowed top fifty of the Watchability Index, displacing Hercules in New York at #33. It’s shitty gold.

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