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Review: Pulpy shoot-'em up 'Copshop' lets loose

Courtesy of Open Road Films


An “Assault on Precinct 13” style shoot-’em up with its own admiration for cheesy action 90s cinema, Joe Carnahan’s “Copshop” lets the bullets (and bodies) fly in outlandish fashion. Anchored by Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo (who else?) and accompanied by a strong performance from Alexis Louder, Carnahan’s usual flair for the dramatic and gritty (see “Smokin Aces” or “The Grey”) aren’t lost on this smart thriller. Employing jump cuts, creative musical cues, and split-screen takes to amplify the claustrophobic setting, “Copshop” isn’t all talk. It actually walks the walk.

Told from inside a minimally staffed county prison outside of Nevada, “Copshop” chronicles a strange evening where even stranger characters make their grand entrance. First up is Teddy Muretto (Grillo) who just got popped for slugging Valerie (Louder), a police officer with very little patience to give. In an odd twist, Muretto wanted to get locked up, knowing he was safer on the inside than whatever awaited him out. That doesn’t detour Gerard Butler’s Bob Viddick, a hitman with a bid on Muertto’s life, from staging his own scheme to get pinched, ending up in the cell next to the target. A charming tête-à-tête unfolds detailing Muerrto’s informant arrangements with the feds thus setting the stage for an all out brawl between the two, but not before other slimy personalities, notably Toby Huss’ Anthony Lamb, a serial killer who rivals Steve Buscemi from “Con Air,” enters the scene looking for his piece of the pie.

Everyone wants Muretto’s head on a stick and when the jail gets overrun by thugs, Valerie, with a fatal bullet wound in her stomach, shacks up inside the holding cell block with only Muerrto and Viddick as company. The clock is ticking, and Carnahan, after the obligatory opening foundation is laid, gets the blood pumping and the movie finds its groove. All the situational set pieces are put in place, including the eventual payoffs and callback to earlier scenes and the predictable double crossings, but Carnahan finds inventive methods of keeping us on edge (you’ll not find a more nerve wracking scene of someone trying to change a keypad code this year).

“Copshop” is taunt, lean and, for the most part, tons of fun. Butler, by now the godsend of B action pictures, runs all over Viddicks gruffled demeanour and literally winks at the camera while doing it. During one of several fist fights, he gets a knife through his hand, looks at it, and proceeds to shove said knife into the neck of his opponent without missing a beat. Sure it’s the same one dimensional tough guy he played in “Den of Thieves,” but standing alongside Louder’s Valerie, he’s the perfect antagonist who is hard to read, though never uninteresting. Thankfully, “Copshop,” for all its borrowed elements, is never boring or tedious to the point of no return. It’s one jail cell worth getting locked up in.

Grade: B

COPSHOP opens in theaters Friday, September 17th


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