Alexis Louder Steals The Show In Joe Carnahan’s Copshop

It would be easy to dismiss Joe Carnahan and Frank Grillo’s production company, Warparty, as nothing more than a means of shoving as much of the latter down moviegoers throats as they can stand, and you would not be entirely wrong. Outside of El Chicano, all of the films released by the indie company have put Grillo at the forefront, with varying degrees of quality. While his presence is unavoidable in their most recent offering, Copshop, this is a case where more the film’s cast gets to shine, with one breakout performance in particular.

As a fast-talking fixer with a price on his head, Grillo plays Teddy Murretto, a man all too happy to be taken into police custody. He eventually gets his wish, crossing paths with Officer Valerie Young, played by Alexis Louder. Taken to a small town police precinct in the middle of Nevada, one can’t fault Teddy for thinking he might be in the clear of those looking to take him out. Unfortunately, he has underestimated the persistence of a pair of resourceful hitmen, and must convince the rookie cop who arrested him, that it would be in both of their best interests to work together.

Admittedly, Copshop is a film that is light on actual plot, and yet I firmly believe that this is by design. There are films that often work best within this framework, and Copshop is certainly one of them. So many elements to the story are without fine details, but in watching the film, you realize how unimportant some of those elements would have been. Who represents the people Teddy screwed over, who now want to kill him? It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that he screwed them over, and now they want to kill him. Any other film would have spent an inordinate amount of time laying out every intricate detail about such individuals, and Teddy would be the key to uncovering a massive conspiracy that Valerie would be invested in bringing to light. It’s a credit to Joe Carnahan and co-screenwriter Kurt McLeod that they choose to sidestep what has long since become a cliché. In fact, Carnahan already did this film with his remake of Point Blank.

Copshop understands what kind of movie it is, and it is one in which such details are irrelevant. This is a good old fashioned siege film, where disparate characters are forced into a cooperative situation to fight off external threats. The action is fast-paced, the violence is gritty and visceral, and that’s what you’ve ultimately bought a ticket for. There is an urgency to the events of the film that would not allow for the kind of expository character building or plot development that one would expect. Aspects of character and plot are introduced in as efficient a manner as possible, acknowledging the film’s primary focus on action and dialogue. We don’t need to see or know anymore details about Valerie’s spouse, beyond her having a spouse. That alone should be enough for the viewer to gather some depth from her as a character. As she goes through this ordeal to begrudgingly protect Teddy from being killed, all we need to know is that there is someone important to her in her life. What was her military record? It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she was in the military, so when certain things happen over the course of the film, we know she has some level of experience to address them. The flipside of this being that the film does not use this as an excuse to make her an unstoppable badass.

One of Copshop’s biggest strengths, for that matter, is how relatable and vulnerable Valerie is as a character. She’s not the best at everything, and even better, she’s kind of a screw-up at times. Any other film would have presented the situation in Copshop as a metaphor for something else the focal character is going through, and would ultimately have to overcome in some grandiose fashion. This was actually an element of the remake of the film that Copshop is, in part, paying homage to, Assault on Precinct 13. Again, Carnahan knows that we’ve seen this kind of film far too many times already, and instead builds Valerie as a character who is just going through the motions during her shift. She’s not fighting any figurative demons, she’s not closing herself off from connections, and despite being a little too playful and cavalier, she’s still resourceful and determined when she needs to be. Relative newcomer Alexis Louder turns in an energetic performance, conveying all the necessary emotions and depth, and is arguably one of the most “human” characters we’ve seen in an action film in recent months.

Frank Grillo may usually be the headliner in any other Warparty film, but he’s more than happy to take a backseat in what is ostensibly a supporting role. He’s not his usual “tough guy” self, ready to leap head first into action, consequences be damned. Teddy is absolutely terrified, and it is a treat to watch Grillo try and weasel himself out of the predicament he finds himself in over the course of the film. This is balanced perfectly with Gerard Butler as Bob Viddick, one of two hitmen looking to collect on the bounty for Teddy, and being a surprising voice of reason that Valerie tries to ignore more often than not. Some may not care for his Has Fallen franchise, and I’m sure there are those who believe he peaked with 300, but when Gerard Butler gets the right role, he absolutely nails it. And make no mistake, Bob Viddick is the right role. The character is as pragmatic as he is brutish, while having a delightfully wicked sense of humor, which never feels mean-spirited. Him and Louder establish the perfect dynamic, as you listen to him explain things, and realize how much sense he’s making, even as you root for Valerie, who still wants to protect Teddy.

Of course, if there is any other standout performance in Copshop, it would most certainly have to be one Toby Huss, as competing hitman Tony Lamb. With his southern twang and idiosyncratic wardrobe, this may very well be one of my favorite assassin characters in recent memory. The sadistic humor he brings to the film comes at just the right time, when a break in the tension is absolutely needed. One scene, in particular, features him cavalierly announcing himself to paramedics, as they tend to an officer that he has just shot in the head. Even funnier is that this comes after he comments on the fact that the blood spatter hit a mugshot of himself on a computer screen in the exact same spot. In an alternate cinematic universe, Tony Lamb is the father of Chris Pine’s character from Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces.

Lean and straightforward, Copshop is an “all killer-no filler” delight, balancing brutal action, comedy, witty dialogue, and a nostalgic soundtrack that never feels overbearing. Butler, Grillo, and Huss round out an impressive ensemble cast, but it’s Alexis Louder who gets all the best moments to shine. Joe Carnahan’s love of 70s exploitation and crime noir is on full display, while managing to still feel fresh and inventive, providing the perfect comedown from the usual bombast of the summer movie season.

(4 out of 5)



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