In Joe Carnahan’s first film in seven years, the director of The A-Team, Smokin’ Aces, and The Grey moves Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo, and relative newcomer Alexis Louder around the inside of an isolated police station in Nevada. Grillo’s “fixer” Teddy Muretto forces his own arrest by Louder’s rookie police officer Valerie Young, with hitman Bob Viddick (Butler) infiltrating the station to kill Muretto. But this isn’t a three-person drama: Viddick isn’t the only assassin in the precinct that night.
Carnahan’s films aren’t exactly known for holding back and Copshop isn’t any different. If you’ve seen Assault on Precinct 13 or 16 Blocks, then you’ve seen most of the principles played out here in terms of what’s going to go down, violently and psychologically. There are a fair number of headshots, beatings, and (periodically) creative ways of inflicting pain on other human beings that gruesomely show the depths people will go to exact revenge.
Toby Huss’ Anthony Lamb adds to the mix within the precinct, a lunatic with an inclination for singing while he taunts his would-be victims. When he arrives in the precinct, the violence escalates and the danger for rookie Young increases exponentially. But that’s where the tension really comes in terms of the dramatic flow of the movie: if all of these characters are bad news, then how is Young supposed to know who to trust? Can she even survive the night?
There are things that make Young more engaging, providing degrees of nuance that make this better than the C-list film it deserves to be. She’s ex-military, her dad (and grandfather) taught her truisms, and she quotes philosophy as well as she drops profanity-laced one-liners on the other ‘inhabitants’ of the precinct that night. Louder’s presence is THE best part of the film, the elevating factor that draws us in — the clear hero stuck in an untenable situation, a Catch-22, a Kobayashi Maru. What do you do when you can’t win?
Young’s detective sticks to doing what she knows is true and right, trusting as long as she can and holding the line between law and justice well past the point of breaking. This is Old Testament, Western law-and-order stuff, with rules broken and codes to live by. It’s not breaking new ground, but it’s still one of the more entertaining thrillers of the year.
Copshop is Carnahan’s best film since The Grey, and he has Louder to thank for that.