Quentin Dupieux’s particular stake in the low-to-middle-brow comedy ring is beginning to show itself as something else entirely. Something approaching a severely angled, caved-in brow. Unlike the two films preceding it — Rubber and Wrong — Wrong Cops has the volume turned up all the way, and we have the irascible, pot dealing, gum chewing, iguana skinned loudmouth Officer Duke (a memorable performance by Mark Burnham) to thank for this.
He’s the first cop we see, and he quickly establishes himself as such an unscrupulous prick in general as to make you forgot how corrupt he actually is. Of course, they all are to some degree. Wrong of spirit, wrong of purpose, and always ushering in the movie’s “play it straight” joke beats as wrongly as possible. Dupieux’s slipshod approach to filling the time of near an hour and a half when the inciting events (accidental gunshot wounding of a gardening neighbor, a deformed one-eyed cop trying to craft the perfect EDM track, blackmail) are handled so offhandedly, turns out fine. And there’s no reason to worry when Duke’s on the scene: every time he’s around, it’s as though events somehow got a lot less eventful. It’s like he’s poking at us, the viewer, going “HEY THERE? WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING? WHO’S THAT NOW?” leaving the inciting to the rest of the cast while he just chews his cud and whatever cruddy scenery may be at his disposal.
A key asset in this regard is the irresistible Arden Myrin (Holmes)
whose bloodthirsty capriciousness kinda brightens up the sour if not overly depressing proceedings. Daniel Quinn’s Weekend at Bernie’s-corpse-whose-always-got-a little-more-life-left-to-him approach to the music loving gunshot victim is both funny and helpful when the film begins to drift. Eric Judor brings an air of quiet intensity, the sort of reverent tone reserved for tragic prodigy melodramas to the role of the would-be maestro, Officer Rough. Eric Wareheim decides to go full on perv with the sexually frustrated de Luca, while a dressed-down Marilyn Manson manages to wrangle something pretty funny out of trying to channel his inner ultra-lame simpleteen (with the fantastic name of David Dolores Frank). Of course, Steve Little (Officer Sunshine) is great as the guy who gets shit on as usual. But as the bracing last scene attests, this is Duke’s movie. He just don’t know what to freakin’ do with it. Neither do I!
I can hardly not recommend Wrong Cops, as I had a great time watching it. But is it good film making? I think Dupieux is not afraid of being uncinematic, and this is his least visually striking feature yet. But despite its drabness, there is a nervous, whatever-makes-us-laugh energy that was absent in his previous films. It seems that this more informal style suits the artist’s already hyperactive, fussy approach to his medium. Wrong Cops is a solid little acid bath splash of a romp, and like any good romp reaches new heights as it goes. (Or is that a ramp?) Did I mention Eric Roberts is in this? He’s so detached it almost feels like an “as himself” pop-in. But Duke drinks deep from his Eric Roberts-ness, however fleeting. Perhaps that’s the one right thing he can teach us.