Set in the small-town Nevada police station slangily referenced in its title, ‘Copshop’ is a game of cat-and-mouse, played out between a fugitive con man named Teddy (Frank Grillo) — who, to elude the mobsters he has double-crossed, gets himself deliberately arrested — and Bob (Gerard Butler), a mob hit man who adopts the same strategy in his pursuit of Teddy, winding up in a jail cell across from his quarry.
At least that’s the way the film by Joe Carnahan, a director who knows his way around such violent, testosterone-driven thrillers as ‘Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane’ and ‘The Grey’, is presented in its promotional materials. ‘Copshop’s’ website emphasises the dynamic between those two men, relegating the film’s true hero, a rookie officer named Valerie, to “caught in the crosshairs” status.)
In reality, the movie is more like a game of cat-and-cat-and-cat-and-cat-and-mouse - with a total of four separate male villains once it gets going — and the decidedly un-mousy Valerie (a compelling Alexis Louder) ultimately seizing the wheel of this otherwise formulaic vehicle, and taking it somewhere a little more interesting than expected.
‘Copshop’ takes some time to set up the dynamic. Teddy isn’t much of a con man, as it turns out, except to the degree that his trustworthiness is called into question, in the standoff that develops between him and Bob, with Valerie in the middle, after a second assassin, Anthony, shows up to finish the job Bob hasn’t quite managed to start. Anthony (an entertainingly unhinged Toby Huss) doesn’t really care who he has to kill to get to Teddy, and he’s assisted in this indiscriminate mission by a crooked cop named Huber (Ryan O’Nan).
Once all these pieces are set in place, in the rather schematic dynamic, we find Teddy, Bob and Valerie — the latter of whom has been accidentally shot in the stomach by her own gun — locked behind a bulletproof door, with neither of the three knowing whom can be trusted. On the other side of that door: Anthony and Huber, armed with an automatic weapon and a sledgehammer, the better to break through the cinder block wall with.
That’s basically it — and it ain’t much — but Louder is well-grounded and brings charisma and intensity to her table-turning role, in a story of brute force to which Carnahan adds a welcome injection of style, finesse and, yes, even fun at times. Is ‘Copshop’ bloody and bullet-strewn nonsense? Yes, to be sure. There’s a scene, naturally, of someone walking down a hallway littered with shell casings, shot from ground level.
All the same, though there’s no reinvention of the genre here, Louder’s mesmerising mouse proves more than a match for the assembled tomcats — all exuding machismo — with whom she must deal.
‘Copshop’ is out now in UAE cinemas