(In theatres, March 2010) The most profound irony about Cop Out, as directed by Kevin Smith from someone else’s script, is that the film’s direction is quite a bit better than its screenplay. This should surprise Smith fans: after all, hasn’t it been a trademark of his movies that their writing frequently rises above their often-pedestrian direction? Here, through, Smith has a budget and presumably the time to present a more visually ambitious vision. Alas, the script just isn’t there: As a pair of policemen bumble their way through a dull storyline involving Latin gangsters in Brooklyn, Bruce Willis does well as the veteran leader of the pair but I remain unconvinced by Tracy Morgan’s comedic style. Worse, though, is the script’s fondness for police intimidation as a plot driver: in Cop Out’s reality, it’s hilarious for heroes to jam pistols and tattoo needles in civilians’ face to extract information. As for the rest of the film, it’s more miss than hit. Seann William Scott has an intriguing character that’s played for senseless giggles. Other characters come and go, with a dramatic plot heavy-handedly jammed in the middle of the comedy. There’s a noticeable lack of flow to the proceedings, and the spot-the-references-to-eighties-action-movies game quickly grows tiresome. For a comedy, Cop Out has a noticeable lack of laughs: even what is supposed to be amusing just feels dumb. On the other hand, the direction feels undistinguishable from most cookie-cutter cop comedies, which marks a step up for Smith. He’s still not doing it well, but at least it’s not as blatantly bad as in his first few films. Hopefully it’s a lucrative enough project that he’ll be able to work on something else soon. Still, even in mercenary work-for-hire projects, he may want to pick material that’s stronger than Jersey Girl.