Quebec’s buddy cop movie becomes a franchise

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BCBC2

Colm Feore and Patrick Huard in Bon Cop Bad Cop 2.

3-of-5-star-rating

Nothing ages quite as rapidly and gracelessly as the buddy cop movie. From its inception in the mid-’70s with stuff like Freebie and the Bean or Busting to its solidification as a po-mo trope with the recent work of Shane Black, the buddy cop movie often reflects the worst or corniest aspects of popular culture at the time of its release. Buddy cop movies have the most dated soundtracks, the most outlandish outfits, the most inappropriate racial/gender/sexuality humour and, more often than not, the most of-its-time cinematic techniques.

Rewatching the original Bon Cop Bad Cop a week ago, I was struck by how poorly its aesthetic had aged in only 10 years. The mismatched-partner humour was what worked best; the washed-out estatz Tony Scott cinematography, chugga-chugga nu-metal soundtrack, frantic editing and uncomfortable mix of dark genre elements and sitcom-y comic situations were what didn’t. Bon Cop Bad Cop is as of-its-time as Starsky and Hutch or Lethal Weapon and, while it represents a watershed moment in mainstream Quebec cinema history as one of the (if not the) first local blockbuster action movies, the fact remains that it isn’t a particularly good action movie and a serviceable, tightly formatted comedy at best.

Rewatching the original Bon Cop Bad Cop didn’t give me too much hope for its sequel, which is hitting theatres just over a decade after the first. With a script credited solely to its star, Patrick Huard, and direction handed over to Alain Desrochers (who, as the helmer of the only other action franchise in Quebec, is pretty much our Michael Bay by default), BCBC2 certainly feels like it’s aiming for a purer action feel away from the semi-cartoonish hockey setting of the first film.

Montreal cop David Bouchard (Huard) has spent the last year working undercover in a car-thieving ring, just one amongst a rotating crew of bums boosting cars for sharp-dressed mobster Dipietro (Noam Jenkins) and his thuggish left-hand man Mike (Marc Beaupré). The whole operation is almost brought down (and Bouchard’s cover almost blown) when an RCMP raid on the operation brings him face-to-face with his old partner, buttoned-down Ontario cop Martin Ward (Colm Feore). Bouchard and Ward find themselves working together once again to figure out exactly why these high-flying gangsters are putting so much focus on a high-risk, low-return mass car boosting scheme.

As you’ll recall, the central story of the first film was some silly nonsense about a crazed hockey fan who was getting his revenge on the people he felt had ruined the sport. When held up against that, BCBC2’s plot seems a lot less local, but certainly more conducive to lining up car chases and explosions. The tone is a little straighter – while there are still jabs at cultural differences between the two protagonists, their relationship is much more affectionate in this sequel, and less schematically comedic. The film perhaps doesn’t fully earn its most overwrought and emotional moments (Feore in particular is saddled with enough rapid-fire backstory and stakes-raising to people at least three series of Law & Order), but they feel a lot more organic this time around.

The comedy, on the other hand, suffers a little. There’s less of it, for one; the bad guys are a lot straighter (save for Beaupré’s Mike – but never Michel – whose diminutive tough-guy demeanour is a source of much derision) and the stakes much higher. Though outlining exactly what the film is dealing with would certainly constitute spoilers, let’s just say it’s a more grounded and timely concern – but when the U.S. president is shown, he’s played by John Moore (of Escalator Reviews fame) and not Alec Baldwin.

Stand-up comedian Mariana Mazza steps into the role of the quirky helper previously held by Louis-José Houde as the wisecracking coroner; she’s a hyperactive, easily riled-up hacker who works alongside Ward and Bouchard. While it’s nearly impossible to transcend the token role of the person who slips in jokes between bits of unavoidable exposition, Mazza steals many of the scenes in her big-screen debut and constitutes perhaps the sole element of broad comedy in the film… until a third-act sequence featuring a bunch of dumb American cops straight out of Smokey and the Bandit. The overt comedy is at odds with the grittier tone of the film, much like the gore and grit stuck out weirdly in the brighter tones of the original. A lateral move, in many ways, though the film is certainly not devoid of laughs when it operates in the more Shane Black-esque aspects of the story.

As I mentioned above, the original’s music has aged particularly poorly – it’s a mix of Korn-esque power choogle and electronic blips and blarps that was probably already dated in 2006. I thought that this new installment had nowhere to go but up, but alas, the music for this new installment is courtesy of Anik Jean, who also happens to be Huard’s partner. I don’t really want to cry nepotism if I don’t have to; Jean’s an established musician in her own right (she’s opened for the fucking Stones), so it’s not like she’s a complete neophyte plunking down experimental keyboard jams and pre-programmed Casio beats. But Jean’s brand of propulsive pop-rock and power balladry really has little to do with action filmmaking, and there’s a direct correlation between the use of some of the more forceful songs and some of the movie’s most overwrought, overshooting moments.

Of course, a sequel to an action movie really only promises one thing: bigger action and (hopefully) way more of it. The car-theft angle places Desrochers in a familiar zone (he also helmed both of the Nitro movies); perhaps naturally, the film has more car stuff and less shootouts, but still manages to keep it coming throughout its two-hours-and-change running length. It’s pretty well done, especially considering that its legacy is essentially the first film to come out of Quebec that was painting with those shades.

Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 is much more of a pure action movie than it is the mismatched comedy of errors the first one was. It’s, in a lot of ways, a better film, but also a less distinctive one. If the first one felt like “this is what it looks like when Quebec tries to do an action comedy,” Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 feels more like what it looks like when they succeed, with all of the baggage that implies. Chances are that it will age similarly to the first one, but Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 suggests that its next sequel might be more along the lines of Old Dad Cop, Young Daughter Cop anyway. ■
Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2 is in theatres Friday, May 12. Watch the trailer here:

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