You wouldn’t know it by the HBCU sweatshirt that Tracy Morgan is wearing or the fact that he nicknamed his co-star Bruce Willis, “B-Dub” but the only mention of skin color you’ll get in his new movie Cop Out is in reference to exotic animal hide boots.
Directed by Kevin Smith of Jay & Silent Bob fame, Cop Out is a story of two NYPD detectives, Paul Hodges (Morgan) and Jimmy Monroe (Willis) who are trying to hold their family lives together despite the straining demands of the job. When Jimmy tries to hawk his highly valuable baseball card to pay for his daughter’s wedding the duo somehow find themselves wrapped up in a Mexican drug gang’s kidnapping scheme.
“This film stands on the shoulders of all those cop films going back to gangster pictures like In the Heat Of the Night and Bonnie and Clyde” says Willis. “All of these films are about the same thing, the good guys triumphing over the bad guys. I think Cop Out stands by itself as a film that has elements of shoot-em-up, romance, save the girl, two cool tough cops that know how to be cops. [But] at a certain point we decided to make this funny, went balls out and tried to make you laugh.”
Willis is being rather literal in his last statement. One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when Morgan’s character is interrogating an 11-year-old, foul-mouthed car thief and gets kicked in the groin. But unlike most movies where he just doubles over in pain for a laugh Paul sucker punches the little miscreant right back in the family jewels sending him to the ground.
“I was in “Little Man” and I got beat up by a little kid in the whole movie,” Morgan says anticipating protest from the parental watchdog groups. “If it’s not offensive then it probably wasn’t funny. ”
While there is plenty of tension to go around between the various characters (Paul is convinced that his wife is cheating on him) they never go for the obvious in “Cop Out.” It’s easy to spot the influence of movies like 48 Hours but there is a significant difference.
“The other thing to note [in] all of these other films we’re being compared to… there is very strong racial tension,” Willis says. “Not one time in this film did we comment on the fact that Tracy’s Black and I’m White and I didn’t miss it at all. It’s so much more fun…we just lept passed it.”
One thing Paul couldn’t get past was his obsession with infidelity. He’s convinced that his wife (played by Kidada Jones) is having an affair with their next-door neighbor and he goes to extreme lengths to collect evidence. Unfortunately, Morgan has personal experience to draw upon.
“It hurt! My heart was shattered,” he says recalling the painful memory of catching an old girlfriend cheating. “I just remembered what my father told me: If you wanna catch a girl cheating, you knock on the front door and run around the back. Cuz he’s coming out the back, and that’s where I caught him. Running out the back with one sneaker on.”
It’s hard to not laugh at Morgan’s pain when he puts his signature inflection on the story and that is what he thinks makes him valuable to this film and other rolls he’s played.
“My sense of humor was a tool for me to get past my mother and father separating, my oldest brother having cerebral palsy and the bullies in the schoolyard. I had to make ‘em laugh to keep ‘em off my ass.”
As director Kevin Smith asserts, Morgan definitely brings “two big buckets of funny” to the set. “He elevates the script.”
Cop Out starring Tracy Morgan, Bruce Willis and Sean Williams Scott is in Theaters Friday February 27th.
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