Let’s Be Cops (2014)

Fake Cops. Real Trouble.

It’s always great seeing real-life friendships on the silver screen as there’s something about an authentic bond that can’t truly be replicated; yeah, some good actors can ‘pull-off’ a believable closeness, but genuine chemistry or charisma just can’t be faked. We’ve seen Seth Rogen share the screen with his real-life buddies in 2013’s This Is the End, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill clearly have oomph in their Jump Street pictures and the connection between Let’s Be Cops front men Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. — who star alongside one another in television’s New Girl (2011) — falls within this inimitable category, standing as the feature’s biggest strength.

Just another 'buddy cop' flick!
Just another ‘buddy cop’ flick!

Let’s face it, we’ve all played cops and robbers at some stage in our lives, likewise, we’ve all worn costumes we’ve wished we could transform into — even just for a day — and Let’s Be Cops plays with the simple idea of ‘what if?’ The picture’s general premise follows the once promising college-football quarterback, Ryan O’Malley (Jake Johnson), and his best friend, Justin Miller (Damon Wayans Jr.), who moved from Ohio to Los Angeles right after finishing college in order to pursue their dreams, however, nothing has really panned out for the pair. Suddenly they’re 30, and the dreams they relocated to Los Angeles for haven’t been realized; sure, they’re still roommates, but neither has had any meaningful romantic relationships nor career advancements. Ryan’s hasn’t worked since appearing in a herpes commercial two years earlier, receiving an $11,000 paycheck which he has been living off ever since, while Justin is stuck working as an assistant to a video-game designer instead of designing games himself, taking notes on awful video-game ideas like ‘Firefighters vs. Zombies.’ With nothing tying the boys down to Los Angeles, the duo decides to throw in the towel and return home.

Suddenly, a misinterpreted masquerade ‘fancy-dress’ invitation leads Ryan and Justin to show up at their Ohio college reunion party dressed in police uniforms, where they are mistaken for real cops, gaining attention from beautiful women, respect from strangers, and a much needed ego boost, giving the twosome a new sense of purpose. While it’s initially all fun-and-games for the pair when they strut back to Los Angeles in uniform, the partners push their newly found power trip to the next level when Ryan buys a used police cruiser, then modifies it to resemble the genuine article, deceiving the L.A.P.D in an attempt to delve into bona fide detective work. Things intensify when the brash Ryan threatens a foreign gang and the apprehensive Justin finds himself and his overconfident partner, tangled in a real life web of mobsters and dirty detectives. As soon as the bogus ‘officers’ realize they’re in too deep, the friends must put their fake badges on the line in order to serve and protect.

Damon Wayans Jr. ... playing dress-up!
Damon Wayans Jr. … playing dress-up!

With a self-aware screenplay, written by director Luke Greenfield, Girl Next Door (2004), and Nicholas Thomas, which emphasizes and plays-on all the buddy cop clichés one could possibly handle — borrowing material from the likes of Michael Bay’s Bad Boys series to the iconic Lethal Weapon franchise — the script clowns about with the alluring policeman stereotype, where law enforcers aid damsels in distress, and blue-coat attire helps win the love of countless beauties; who doesn’t love a dashing man in uniform? For the most part, the laughs generally come hard-and-fast, particularly when the bombastic Ryan — constantly promoting himself — and Justin — who, as a cop, goes by the unlikely alias of Officer Chang — are basking in the perks of being patrolmen, giving viewers plenty to chuckle about as the two go about performing conventional policeman duties; an attempt at disheveling a couple of crooks in the midst of a convenient-store break-in, and, a hilarious approach at conducting high-tech surveillance, certainly stick out as a couple of noteworthy moments. Though, by the third act, the picture shifts from being a simple comedy, moving slightly into action-comedy territory, and while the feat does poke fun at the generic ins-and-outs of being a policeman, it does present some real, life-threatening dangers inherent within the often-glorified gig. Director Greenfield also throws in an interesting commentary about the difference between fake violence versus real violence, which Johnson and Wayans roll with effortlessly.

Our improbable heroes, Johnson and Wayans — improvising most of their dialogue — are joined by an amusing cast of co-stars, who appear to be having fun, while moving the narrative along at a steady and entertaining pace. The hilarious Keegan-Michael Key, Hell Baby (2013), joins the boys-in-blue, riotously mocking Hispanic stereotypes, as Pupa, a driver who is kidnapped and eventually finds himself entwined in the phony cop’s investigation. Rob Riggle, 21 Jump Street (2012) — with his routine go-to on-screen persona — adds a nice touch to the picture as Patrol Officer Segars, a real cop who befriends the fake officers; Andy García’s, The Untouchables (1987), Detective Brolin pops up at precisely the right moment, aiding the narrative with gravity and menace, whilst the remarkably attractive Nina Dobrev — who’s widely known for her portrayal of Elena Gilbert from television’s The Vampire Diaries (2009) — doesn’t amount to much as waitress Josie, solely providing eye-candy and a surface-level romantic sub-plot for Justin. Finally, the scene-stealing Natasha Leggero, Neighbors (2014), is a total blast — giving us a glimpse of her naughty bits — as a sexually voracious woman, whose apartment is borrowed for surveillance purposes.

Bromance; we've all had one!
Bromance; we’ve all had one!

Alas, Let’s Be Cops does feature the customary ‘full frontal’ male nudity shot for shock value and could have done with some tightening, nonetheless, Johnson and Wayans’ bromance, aided by a colorful cast of secondary players, ensure that Let’s Be Cops is a genuinely funny affair. What’s more, the over-the-top comedy cleverly touches on themes of lethargy and a lack of fulfillment, a universal concern among young adults in today’s nosy generation. The manner in which Let’s Be Cops ultimately concludes is no big surprise, wrapping up proceedings a tad too neatly — although this is somewhat to be expected — but despite its many flaws, director Luke Greenfield takes one neat idea and knocks it right out of the park!

3 / 5 – Good

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Let’s Be Cops is released through 20th Century Fox Australia