Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: Hot Pursuit

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
Reese Witherspoon's last two films have exhibited the signs typically associated with an actor's comeback - critical prestige and a paycheck. Her deserved Oscar nomination for her performance in last year's "Wild" was an example of the former, while her latest, "Hot Pursuit," is a perfect example of the latter.

Paycheck films pay off for some, while not as much for others. So, it saddens me to say it, but "Hot Pursuit" is an absolute dud. The picture, which was directed by Anne Fletcher ("The Proposal"), relies primarily on creaky cliches - including everything from the bumbling good cop taking on the crooked cops in her department to a buddy film in which the two leads spend much of the time badmouthing one another - and most of them are not funny.

Witherspoon plays Cooper (and, yes, we know her only as that for much of the movie), an officer who is so by-the-book that her colleagues do not take her seriously. Also, her love life is nonexistent and she has so far failed at living up to the standards set by her father, a lauded officer who died in the line of duty.

I won't give away the gag, if you want to call it that, but suffice it to say the flashback sequence during which we learn why Cooper is the butt of so many jokes is not only not particularly funny, but I'm curious to see how it will play in the wake of recent news items involving police using brutal force.

Cooper gets assigned the job of escorting the wife (Sofia Vergara) of a drug dealer who plans to testify against his cartel's leader to court. Of course, things do not go as planned. The other officer with whom Cooper is working is killed and, suddenly, she and Mrs. Riva (Vergara) are on the run from crooked cops, cartel killers and the like. And for some unexplained reason, Cooper becomes the number one suspect in the slaying of the cop with whom she had been working. It's a plot device that is well-worn, but in this case it doesn't even particularly make sense.

Most of the film's jokes revolve around the two women's clashing personalities - Cooper is seen as overly serious and mostly humorless, while Mrs. Riva is a bling-bling airhead who cannot be trusted. And most of the jokes stemming from this pairing fall flat, not so much due to a lack of chemistry between the two leads, but because they are given little to do other than play out the script's tired material.

Subplots abound, involving a romance (of course) with a man violating his parol, a trip to a casino and Cooper finding out that her fellow officers are shady. If you guess in which direction "Hot Pursuit" is going at any point in the film, you're probably correct.

Witherspoon is a very talented actress. Check out her work in "Wild," but also her Oscar winning performance in "Walk the Line" and her turn in "Election," which proves she can hang with the best of them as a comedienne. I hope that if she takes on another comedy in the future, it involves a better script than this one.

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