Last September, a little film called Copshop flew under the radar of most mainstream audiences. The movie features Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo, the latter a sly con artist who’s on the run from a lethal assassin. However, both men end up in a precinct and a rookie cop gets in the crosshairs between the two. Despite coming out to relatively strong reviews – currently, an 82% on rotten tomatoes – Copshop ultimately flopped by making only $6.700 million worldwide and was quietly sent to streaming and POV a couple of weeks later. First, Copshop is not some profound action/thriller that changes the rules of the genre and subverts your expectations. It’s not something that you would nominate for an Academy Award, nor is deep or thought-provoking. Does that make it any less fun? Of course not! Here’s the thing, sometimes a movie can still be wildly entertaining even if it’s lacking in the originality department. Copshop is the definition of an old-school thriller, something that’s rarely made in today’s film market. So, what makes this film so darn good? For one, the characters.
Easily the most impressive in the small cast is newcomer Alexis Louder as Valerie Young. She is not some feminist whose only characteristic is that she’s strong, smart, and better than all the boys. She’s a cop. Not an invincible one. Someone’s who’s tough and upholds the law but is vulnerable and makes a few mistakes. There’s this undeniable swagger about Louder that helps keep the film’s energy up. She says her lines with a nice attitude and believably plays a no non-sense police officer. None of the situations she’s put in are over-the-top or ridiculous, though this is an action film that mostly takes place in one setting, so it’s not exactly grounded in realism. That doesn’t mean that Grillo and Butler don’t pull their weight in this feature as well. When Butler is given a nice juicy role that he enjoys, his performances a typically top-notch, and the mystery surrounding his character is great. He’s definitely an assassin, but is he the good guy in this situation? Or is he the bad? The film expertly toys with this notion and Butler chews up the scenery. His banter with Grillo is great.
Sure, the film goes into exposition mode in the middle portion, but both men manage to pull off their dialogue without much notice of the exposition. Grillo’s character is somewhat in the same boat. He seems like a decent guy, though our first introduction to his character is him straight up punching Valerie in the face. It’s obvious that he’s trying to get himself into jail to hide away from the assassin, but it’s not a small character trait that goes unnoticed. Of course, I can’t forget about Toby Huss’s Anthony Lamb, whose also an assassin coming to kill Teddy, but he’s more on the psychopath side. He has the best zingers in the film and his magnetic energy is a welcome addition to an already fun movie at this point. What should be commended is the fact that that each of these characters are different despite similar motivations. It helps liven up the film and keeps the overall world feeling big, even though the main location is in the police precinct. Despite the low-budget, Copshop never feels small. The action and special effects look top notch. Heads are splattered. Bullets are shot left and right. And there’s some crazy vehicle action here and there. None of feels misplaced or cheap, and given that this isn’t the first action rodeo for Grillo or Butler, it’s no particular surprise that their sequences are great.
What makes Copshop special is the fact that it takes the time to development its characters. Some get more of the spotlight then others, but even the minor secondary characters get a moment to shine. Joe Carnahan wisely understands that no matter how great the action is, or how cool the dialogue comes across, we as an audience need to connect with the characters so we care about the situation. Copshop is a fun little gem that shouldn’t be missed. In a season full of political fluff or big action blockbusters, it’s a great piece that satisfies your action itch, yet it doesn’t insult your intelligence. The film never tries to be cool or clever, Copshop understands that its main job is to be an entertaining popcorn flick with some fun flare, and it’s never fails to do that for one second.