MOVIE REVIEW: COPSHOP hits that nice exploitation movie meets Tarantino crime film flavor


Joe Carnahan directs this fun action crime film that feels like Reservoir Dogs meets Bad Times at the El Royale with a dash of Assault on Precinct 13.

There’s nothing wrong with having guilty pleasure films; those sinful celluloid secrets you pop in when you don’t want to see a great movie but you just want a popcorn B-movie full of action, explosions, and lots of gunplay. It was just under 15 years ago when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s B-Movie double feature Grindhouse was released in 2007 that was a celebration of classic drive-in movie exploitation films that relied on titillating concepts like guns, explosions, and violence to draw people into the movies rather than quality acting and high concepts. There’s nothing wrong with that and directors like Quentin Tarantino have made whole careers out of mining these films for depth for their own high concept fare. Recent films like 2018’s Bad Times at the El Royale have also found new life in making big-budget dialogue-driven action films wrapped around a central location, like bigger budget versions of Tarantino’s own Reservoir Dogs. In many ways, that’s the niche that Copshop, opening this weekend in theaters, hits. It’s a violent B-movie that takes its lead from movies like Jackie Brown, Assault on Precinct 13, Die Hard, Reservoir Dogs, and plants good character actors in the lead roles and lets the madness play out. Director Joe Carnahan is no stranger to this, especially with films under his helm like Smokin Aces and Boss Level. Here, he casts his lead from Boss Level, Frank Grillo as a mobster who’s looking to get out of town with his money and family after cracking a deal with the feds, but now finds himself in danger. He gets himself arrested by local badass cop Valerie, played by newcomer Alexis Louder, who is the best cop in a bad town. But not far behind him is Bob Viddick, played by Gerard Butler, who has devious intentions to get what Grillo’s Teddy Moretto has and will stop at nothing to get his man.

Now, to say Copshop is derivative of a lot of other action films is the massive understatement of the year. There are shades of John Carpenter, John McTiernan, and Tony Scott all over this movie. In this case, that’s a good thing. Copshop is an ode to the 80’s bad action movie and it relishes it’s over-the-top gunplay, stylized cinematography, and tinted lighting with slow-motion explosions all over the place. That’s a positive for this movie. Alexis Louder is an amazing find by Carnahan; she’s the type of character Tarantino builds whole movies around, just as Carnahan does here and she delivers. Butler is awesome in this, exuding the drunken asshole dirtbag persona he perfected in Den of Thieves, as is Grillo, who channels his action persona from The Purge films into a greasy mob guy who may or may not be a good guy underneath it all. That, coupled with a great performance from Toby Huss as a third competing criminal looking to get his pound of flesh from Teddy really rounds out the film’s primary ensemble of big-screen badasses.

That being said, if Tarantino lite is not your thing, you will probably not enjoy this film. While there are a few great action set pieces here, including a terrific third act, there is a lot of dialogue-heavy scenery-chewing in this film. Louder’s strength is being a quiet and calm badass, but there is a lot of set-up for it, and it does deliver. This is also a throwback exploitation film and that is what makes this movie work. Its stylized violence in a Charles Bronson-esque world that is in the now, but feels very 70s Troubleman meets Mr Majestyk era sleaze violence. If that’s your bag, you’re gonna love this. If it isn’t, you may walk away feeling like this is poor man’s John Carpenter by way of a Bronson film.

Ultimately, Copshop works because of the fun performances and the fact that Carnahan is clearly loving this stylized world he’s made. Movies like this don’t work all the time. You get Planet Terror more often than you get Jackie Brown. But this movie works; it’s fun and the performances suck you in with a lot of crazy silliness you don’t see coming. I recommend it, don’t miss out.