A body turns up on the border of Ontario and Quebec, impaled on a sign. After trying to unload the case on each other, a button-down Toronto cop and a wild-living Montreal detective fight over jurisdiction, and ultimately must work together to track down a serial killer who believes he’s saving the game of hockey. Before the case closes, our heroes dissect French and English obscenities, the plot summons ghosts of NHL scandals past, actions comment metaphorically on national identity, and someone dresses as a beaver.
This is a Canadian film, eh?
Bon Cop, Bad Cop, released in 2006 is, more specifically, a central Canadian film, which has performed well in Quebec, moderately well in Ontario, and struggles for an audience elsewhere. It’s an odd movie, which mirrors too well Canada’s fragmented identity. First-rate actors perform silly, clichéd scenes. Characters speak equal numbers of lines in French and English (and more than a few in Franglais). The film combines parody, comedy, and drama, with divided results.
The main cast give first-rate performances. Veteran Ontario stage and screen actor Colm Feore and Quebec star Patrick Huard have chemistry that carries much of the film. It’s amusing to see strong actors engaging silly comic material: for example, getting stoned when a grow-op house catches fire.
The rest of the cast turn in impressive performances. Louis-Hosé Houde gets laughs as a wise-ass forensics expert living comfortably in his own reality. Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse as Bouchard’s young daughter indicates that Quebec’s home-grown film industry will not lack for future talent.
Several actors play thinly-disguised parodies of figures in the Canadian hockey community. Generally, these work. CBC funnyman Rick Mercer manages a fair turn as bombastic commentator "Tom Berry," but his key scene would have been funnier if filmmakers had hired Don Cherry to play himself.
The film’s villain has a grimly amusing m.o. and a suitably creepy secret lair. His crimes relate to hockey in both their focus and thematic elements. He lacks, however, a really interesting personality that might have made him a truly memorable adversary. He’s more McGuffin than character, and this diminishes the final confrontation.
The film does not consistently find its tone. The parodic and comic elements do not balance easily with the seriousness of some moments. The humour almost entirely disappears in the final sequence, and the rather silly story cannot maintain that level of drama. Consider that this film features a villain and a plot that play like a Canadian take on the old Get Smart series. It includes a man dressed like a beaver doing Taxi Driver’s "you talkin’ to me?" bit before attempting to follow another character, inconspicuously. Consider that it unabashedly runs through the cop movie cliché checklist including:
- mismatched police officers who must work together and gradually become friends
- police officers who pursue a case with such utter disregard for procedure, law, and public safety that in real life they would not only be suspended, but charged and incarcerated
- a hilariously angry superior who merely yells at our heroes when he learns they’ve been showing utter disregard for procedure, law, and public safety
- a required visit to a sleazy bar where a brawl ensues.
- phone numbers beginning with "555."
- a villain who makes the investigation personal by targeting someone close to one of the heroes
- police officers who pursue the villain into an incredibly dangerous situation without calling for backup.
Yet this obvious goofiness mixes with serious moments that suggest a realistic movie. The action sequences even have more plausible consequences than they would in the typical Hollywood crime blockbuster. Bon Cop, Bad Cop pushes its gags over the top, and yet it often doesn’t push far enough, and never quite manages the difficult task of blending these with its dramatic moments. The filmmakers have created an amusing, self-consciously Canadian movie, but it falls short of what it might have been.
Directed by Eric Canuel
Written by Leila Basan, Alex Epstein
Patrick Huard...David Bouchard
Colm Feore...Martin Ward
Sarain Boylan...Iris Ward
Patrice Bélanger...Tattoo Killer
Sylvain Marcel...Luc Therrien
Pierre Lebeau...Captain Le Boeuf
Richard Howland...Harry Buttman
Eric Kundsen...Jonathan Ward
Rick Mercer...Tom Berry