LET’S BE COPS is the kind of movie made for late summer. It sits well with you while in the theatre and dissipates the moment you leave the dark air conditioned sanctuary of the Cineplex.
The story is simple enough, although even touching it will cause it to fall apart under the weight of its unlikeliness. Justin (Damon Wayans Jr) and Ryan (Jake Johnson) are two midwestern college (and now post-college buddies) who moved out to L.A. in their 20’s to make their dreams come true. Or rather, Justin did it to try and achieve his ideal career, video game developer, while Ryan’s just…kind of existing. After a day of rejection, the two are resigned to leaving Los Angeles. They’re 30 and this has gone on long enough. However, they slowly realize their costume of authentic police uniforms is garnering them all kinds of respect and the two cannot resist the fun and fulfillment that playing at being cops gives them. Ryan, in particular, embraces his new (false) identity.
Inevitably, this runs them aground of a vast criminal conspiracy that reaches into the police department. Plus, there’s some romance, some bareknuckle boxing, and Ryan belittling a bunch of prepubescent boys.
Directed with skill but little flair by Luke Greenfield (THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, SOMETHING BORROWED), the movie unfolds in approximately 75% montage. Or, at least it feels that way. But that’s largely fine as it is essentially mostly an excuse for the two leads to mine their chemistry from the sitcom The New Girl in slightly different roles while on summer hiatus. And in this endeavor, it is reasonably successful. Both actors prove they can be funny outside of their current TV personas (although anyone who was coll enough to watch Happy Endings already knew that about Wayans) and actually, arguably, play off each other better here than on the small screen.
The supporting cast provides variable amounts of worthwhile help. Rob Riggle is solid as an actual cop who buys their act, hard. He actually does some nice work with a low-key comic style (his repeated references to his general lack of love for his partner are nicely done) and some seriousness. Natasha Leggero is ridiculous and fun as a maybe love interest for Ryan who is over-the-top without sucking the oxygen out of the room. Finally, Keenan Michael Key is fun as a criminal with very little loyalty and a gift for telling hard truths.
On the other hand, Andy Garcia is a non-factor in what could have been something more, Jon Lajoie is funny, but underused, and Nina Dobrev ends up with the thankless “be pretty” role. The less said about the Eastern European bad guys led by James D'Arcy the better. They succeed as neither serious threats nor bumbling comic antagonists.
Still, the film moves along quick enough that the flaws only come out if you give it anymore thought than necessary. If you instead yield to its in the moment pleasures, completely ignore the “seriousness” of the take down the bad guys portion of the plot, and let the movie boil away in the hot sun, you’ll find LET’S BE COPS to be a silly way to spend 100 minutes.