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For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 13, 2016

Editor’s Note: Back in print and with a recent Blu-ray upgrade from Kino Lorber is this routine, hard R-rated crime thriller notable primarily as a showcase for James Woods’ unique, kinetic screen talent. Here’s my Deseret News review, published May 13, 1988.

“Cop” is a generic title for a generic film, a thriller that is very well acted and pretty well directed, but which gives credence to the old show-biz adage that if it’s not on paper, it’s not on the screen.

The script here is mundane, predictable and very poorly structured, and consequently the entire film feels like a warmed-over TV movie pilot, except for the R-rated gore and profanity of course.

The story has Woods as a burned-out maverick cop — he makes “Dirty Harry” look like “Hooperman” — investigating a serial-murder case. It’s the old story, the cop who is just this side of being a psychopath himself trying to track down the genuine article, discovering a bit too much about himself in the process.


          James Woods tracks a serial killer in 'Cop.'

He tells his young daughter real-life horror stories from his work instead of traditional bedtime yarns, explaining to his wife that “innocence kills,” and he will not allow his daughter to remain innocent; he hits on the ditsy date of a suspect he’s just brutally gunned down; and in his police investigations he generally breaks all the rules to accomplish his ends.

What makes the film initially compelling is Woods himself, giving a very controlled, multi-layered performance as the cop on the edge who goes over the line to capture a killer for his increasingly personal motives. Woods is one of our finest actors and he outdoes himself here.


           James Woods, Lesley Ann Warren, 'Cop'

But unfortunately the script torpedoes his effort as the film becomes more and more routine (when the killer is finally revealed it’s a real letdown). His encounters with Lesley Ann Warren as a feminist poet who is incredibly naive are very talky, and then they’re just loud. (Women don’t get a very good shake in “Cop.”)

Woods fans may put up with these drawbacks to see his excellent skills put to work (Charles Durning is also quite good as his best friend), but in the end they’ll be disappointed that the film (which Woods himself co-produced) isn’t better.

“Cop” is rated R for violence, sex, profanity and vulgarity, all in abundance.