Hot Pursuit (2015)

Armed and sort of Dangerous.

It’s fair to say that the buddy cop genre has had its moderate share of highs and lows in the past, but the commercial success of 2013’s The Heat, which changed the formula by switching its male protagonists to female, pairing two women — who don’t get along — together and forcing them to coexist, proved that the same blueprint could work, even after reversing the gender roles. Although The Heat didn’t exactly set the bar all that high for the female-centered take on the genre, the mismatched pairing of Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara doesn’t work nearly as well, chiefly as the aforementioned lack any sort of viable chemistry together. Given its shoddy initial trailers, it comes as no surprise to report that Hot Pursuit is a shrill and unmemorable experience, one that sees its bankable stars let loose with over-the-top antics and obnoxious screeching in an effort to hide the picture’s dud script — penned by television writers David Feeney and John Quaintance — which turns to elementary playground behavior and fleetingly awful jokes in a desperate attempt to squeeze cheap laughs out of anyone it muster.

After a promising introduction to Witherspoon’s character, Rose Cooper, which shows her as a young girl riding along with her father in his police car, being exposed to a number of law-related incidents, the narrative jumps forward several years and we see Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) as an adult. Following her positive childhood experiences, Rose has grown up in her father’s footsteps and become a San Antonio police officer — albeit one who’s a little too intense for her own good — a by-the-book cop stuck in the evidence room, missing out on all the major cases she’d been dreaming of tackling ever since she was a kid.

Ready for rush hour!
Ready for rush hour!

As luck would have it, Captain Emmett (John Carroll Lynch), assigns Cooper to escort Detective Jackson (Richard T. Jones) to protect a cartel informant named Felipe Riva (Vincent Laresca) and his wife Daniella (Sofia Vergara), after Felipe decides to testify against a notorious cartel leader, Vincente Cortez (Joaquín Cosio). When assassins disrupt the seemingly straightforward assignment, Cooper and Daniella hit the road, looking for a safe place to hide, as they become the prime targets for crooked cops and deadly hired guns. Now, with Cooper’s boss convinced that she’s in on the swindle, her straight-lined attitude is tested as she races through Texas determined to clear her name whilst protecting the flamboyant Daniella from the murderous gunmen hot on their trail. Think Midnight Run (1988) with stilettos!

Surprise surprise! Hot Pursuit is as formulaic as they get; an unpleasant road-trip buddy comedy that feels as though it were cooped up on some kind of small-screen cliché assembly line, complete with familiar setups, foreseeable double-crosses and a disposable baddie who pops up in the flick’s third act. Directed by Anne Fletcher, the filmmaker behind the Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds rom-com, The Proposal (2009), Hot Pursuit plays out like a painful time-killing distraction or an extended comic sketch of a plotline that no one even bothered to develop. The film essentially follows the twosome as they run around on foot after their car is hit by a truck which consequentially sees Witherspoon’s Cooper covered in a cloud of cocaine. The duo then trek through cop-infested woods whilst evading gunmen, stumbling from one pitifully humiliating scenario to the next, as director Fletcher tries to milk laughs from a number of horribly contrived scenarios with a doozy involving a deer head, a roadblock and our stars being reduced to making grunting sounds. What’s more, continuity is non-existent and individual motivations are all over the place as the flick finishes on a sloppy ‘happy ending’ note that completely goes against one of the character’s established framework. Furthermore, Hot Pursuit misses out on the opportunity to throw a few easy immigration jokes into the mix, with filmmakers clearly too afraid to offend conservative viewers with racial digs.

The best officers stay calm under pressure.
The best officers stay calm under pressure.

Working within what’s commonly known as a male-oriented genre, Hot Pursuit attempts to fuel the feature with a female driven energy but ultimately falls flat as the picture never challenges the formula that it’s mimicking and delivers a handful of pathetic jokes about ‘granny panties’ and shoe worship, along with a lame recurring gag about Witherspoon’s ever-diminishing height and Vergara’s ever-increasing age. There’s also a pointlessly long menstrual cycle discussion, an awkwardly cartoonish lesbian scene — where the girls attempt to distract a moronic redneck — and an utterly embarrassing piece of slapstick with Whitherspoon’s Cooper trying to squeeze her way through a low-hanging window. Our poorly photographed leads don’t help proceedings either as they spend the majority of the film bickering at one another like a pair of sexually frustrated Chihuahuas who get louder and louder as the flick forces itself forward with its mere 87 minutes feeling like an eternity. The script just plods along assuming that its stars are ‘absolutely hilarious’ but neither character is likeable or compelling and the duo never bond in the way that the audience expect them to.

Academy Award winning actress Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde (2001), delivers her worst performance to date as the boyish, rule-quoting square Cooper, who’s so clueless that she can’t even recognize a longhorn tattoo, with the miniature blonde working tirelessly to force laughs with her hyperactive larks whereas Sofia Vergara, Chef (2014), is piercing and unbearable as the excessively girly Daniella Riva, a rich princess-type who prances about in six-inch high heels and wheels around a leather suitcase that she refuses to leave behind, even when she’s being perused by gunmen. Oddly enough, the only ‘somewhat’ relatable character is this tedious affair is Randy (Robert Kazinsky), a felon who aids the girls on their journey back to the Dallas police station and serves as a romantic interest for Cooper in an utterly transparent romantic subplot.

Two outlaws who can't seem to figure it out!
Two outlaws who can’t seem to figure it out!

While comedy is subjective — what one person finds funny, someone else might not — I highly doubt that any straight minded person would find themselves amused by the dribble on display here, as Hot Pursuit is a badly written, terribly acted farce that fails to register on any level whatsoever. With weakly executed set pieces, ill-equipped gags, annoying caricatures and a nonsensical third act that sees Reese Witherspoon try to pass herself off as a 13-year-old boy — I kid you not — Hot Pursuit is the cinematic equivalent of clipping one’s toenails.

1 / 5 – Don’t Waste Your Time

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Hot Pursuit is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia