One of the favourite pastimes of Canadians is to rag on indigenous productions - films and TV shows actually set in Canadian locales instead of Anytown, USA - and admittedly the initial impression of Bon Cop, Bad Cop was of a potential stinker: the title was goofy, the concept of two provincial adversaries paired to solve a murder seemed trite, and the action angle felt like a familiar attempt to make another mainstream entrée into the U.S. market.
And then came Bon Cop's smart-ass trailer, which revealed some black humour as the two cops bickered over who got the body's ass, and who held jurisdictional claim on its heart, since the film's first murder victim was drooping like a smooshed banana over a provincial boundary sign. The premise of a serial killer seeking justice because arrogance and greed led to the sale of beloved Canadian hockey teams to American cities - an unsubtle allusion to cultural thievery - might raise flags for those who suffered through Men With Brooms, but Bon Cop has little in common with that stillborn effort, whose producers felt was the perfect play on national clichés. (Curling is not, never was, and never will be, funny.)
Bon Cop follows the template of a standard buddy-cop action film: one's a starchy prick, the other a rebellious loose canon; their union is forced by superior powers, and conflicts and wacky hijinks ensue during their investigation; there's a bar fight, a car chase, a sex scene with an improper relation, and the elaborate killer's plan which inevitably gets personal when a female member of the bickering cops is kidnapped. That happens past the two thirds mark, and it's where the starchy cop realizes rules don't matter; bending the playbook rules help rescue the girl, it saves the day, and it allows for a bit of payback. The balance between partners is reinforced when both share slang and potty words the other vehemently eschewed.
The serial killer is one-sided and we're never sure why he originally snapped; the action scenes are sometimes directed with too much shakycam footage that strays into Greengrass terrain; and the bilingual device becomes contrived when characters switch between French and English for no reason other than to keep the gimmick consistent with the script's design as a blendered portrayal of two cultures that share ongoing strains of mutual contempt.
The switching of tongues remains fishy to the end, but the screenwriters manage to inject some truly nutty, cocaine-spiked dialogue exchanges that put the plot on pause so characters can argue semantics of a cadaver's descending velocity, or the nature of Quebecois argot which can achieve varying levels of personal and theological offence, depending on syntax.
Just as memorable are a few sequences that revel in the inherently absurd situations that action scenarios require to push characters to further anti-social behaviour. The discovery of a grow-op includes a brilliant moment of farce when bad cop Patrick Huard (who co-wrote the scenario) crawls through an inferno inside a clawfoot tub, and resembles some kind of overgrown rhino beetle, slowly succumbing to the affects of burning Mary Jane. Just as funny is a hitman dressed in an idiotic mascot uniform, and Rick Mercer as a foul-minded sports pundit who deserves the wrath of a serial killer.
At two hours, Bon Cop is too long, but the filmmakers and actors have discovered that our inherent knack for absurdity and inter-cultural contempt fuels a style of humour that works, largely because it doesn't revisit and wallow in the creaky stereotypes most national-themed comedies keep recycling. Having a strong cast furthers the good gags, and even though Bon Cop is a silly popcorn flick, it's a sure sign that moose, curling, and quirky-kookiness should be retired from our domestic flicks and imports for a while.
Atlantis-Alliance's DVD presents a crisp transfer of the film, and the sound mixes are sufficiently aggressive to give the surround system a standard workout, although Jean Corriveau's score lacks any memorable style; one gets the feel he was hired to write short connective material between sound effects and source cues, which really waste his considerable talents.
The bilingual menus are a bit of a mess, as the DVD's been authored with descriptions that confuse exactly what kind of audio and subtitles reside on the disc. In a nutshell, there's one 2.0 and 5.1 mix which features the film's French and English banter; the DVD unnecessarily replicates both purely for the luxury of branding the same track as Francais or English (see our Languages section for more info). That means there's 4 language tracks when there need be 2, plus two commentary tracks with the director and producer going over the film separately in French, and English.
Both tracks share similar anecdotes - just differing renditions - although there still isn't enough discussion on the cultural clashes that inspired the film; most of the talk is complimentary material on the cast & crew, which is monotonous at two hours. (The director's intro is also available in separately filmed English and French languages, and tends to run on longer than needed. Say Hi, and let's get into the film.) The DVD's subtitles are also a bit confusing, as there's multiple tracks for standard subtitles and closed captioning.
Disc 2 carries the deleted scenes, which show some additional material with optional French and English commentary tracks. Like the film commentaries, the director and producer elaborate on the wealth of scenes and character bits that were shot but removed because of pacing, and the film's substantive length. Of particular note are the film's original opening scene (the highway border, where the body's discovered). Filling out Disc 2 are a trailer gallery, and a music video for the film's theme song, "Tattoo."
An ideal popcorn flick for those preferring a ruder, sillier kind of Canadian comedy, plus some fiery action-genre kaboom.
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan