Sunday, 28 November 2021

‘Copshop’ B-movie thrills done right; ‘Kate’ on Netflix



'COPSHOP' RATED R

The production of a B-movie could either be a low-budget commercial film or in the broader sense a genre picture with an exploitative or even campy quality, which might describe any number of action thrillers starring Gerard Butler.

The B-grade is often used in a pejorative sense to diminish the artistic appeal of an action picture, but for “Copshop,” in which Butler has a key role, that would be an unfortunate misjudgment.

Butler’s Bob Viddick is a man of mystery, but first the proper set-up is to observe that Frank Grillo’s Teddy Murretto is equally enigmatic as he drives along an isolated Nevada desert highway in a car riddled with bullet holes.

Why is Teddy on the run, but more puzzling, why does he sucker-punch police officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) who is trying to break up a wedding brawl outside a casino?

Teddy wants to get arrested so that he’s safely tucked away in the jail at the remote police station of Gun Creek, little aware that assassin-for-hire Bob is on his trail and just as eager to stage an ostensible drunk-driving accident to end up in a cell across from Teddy.

What ensues is a lot of tough-guy jabbering between the two jailbirds, as Teddy has a bounty on his head that seemingly has something to do with the murder of the state’s Attorney General and missing documents in a briefcase.

The reasons for the political assassination are not only murky but actually prove irrelevant to the plot. Bob wants to kill Teddy, while Teddy just wants to find out if his ex-wife and son are safe, but from what or whom we don’t really know.

Meanwhile, a truly psychotic killer named Anthony Lamb (Toby Huss) shows up at the police station carrying birthday balloons and a machine gun, and then promptly goes berserk in a bloody rampage.

With most of her colleagues falling victim to the psycho and after being injured herself, Officer Young manages just barely to find refuge in the holding cells and is faced with the dilemma of deciding whether to trust Bob or Teddy for help.

Trust is hard to come by at this police station when one of the officers has a keen interest in retrieving contraband stored in the evidence locker. What’s his connection to any of the criminals?

As good as Frank Grillo and Gerard Butler may be as relentless adversaries, Alexis Louder’s rookie cop steals the show with her wit and intelligence as well as fearless bravery in the face of extremely challenging circumstances.

Capturing the essence of ‘70s exploitation, “Copshop” proves to be similar in a good way to a grindhouse film with the feel of something Quentin Tarantino might have directed flanked by “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.”

Best of all for this entertaining, rousing thriller, filled with tough dialogue and even rougher violence, is the climactic moment of an escape that leaves room for a sequel that one hopes brings director Joe Carnahan (“Smokin’ Aces”) back behind the camera.



‘KATE’ ON NETFLIX

While we’re on the subject of violent action thrillers, why not take a look at Netflix’s “Kate,” a brutal drama involving an assassin in Japan racing against the clock after being poisoned to hunt the party responsible for her condition.

As the titular character, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s assassin, mentored in the craft by a father figure in Woody Harrelson’s Varrick, bears a lot of similarity to “Gunpowder Milkshake,” another recent Netflix film. Or think of Natalie Portman in “Leon: The Professional.”

Not to divulge too many details, Kate violated one of the rules of a professional killer, which is why she was poisoned by a deadly dose of Polonium-204 and can only keep going with occasional jabs of adrenaline.

In the quest to find her killer, Kate teams up with rebellious teenager Ani (Miku Patricia Martineau), who has ties to the Japanese underworld but is disaffected with her criminal relatives who have made her an orphan.

The storyline for “Kate” is hardly distinctive. Winstead’s Kate is to Harrelson’s Varrick what Maggie Q’s Anna is to Samuel L. Jackson’s Moody in “The Protégé,” at least on the superficial relationship of a female contract killer to her male mentor.

In the final analysis, “Kate” is a derivative pastiche of the genre, cursorily satisfied with seizing only the most ruthlessly intense and borderline sadistic actions of a professional killer operating in a fantasy underworld.

Of course, since Winstead’s Kate has only 24 hours to live, all niceties must be dispensed with in her headlong rush to kill every Yakuza scumbag that stands in the way of her ultimate target.

While “Kate” may waste its star’s versatile talent, mindless escapism is not necessarily something to dismiss as we breathlessly await better films at the multiplex. Good thing that the next James Bond film “No Time to Die” is just around the corner.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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