If I was a betting man, I’d wager quite a lot that Erik Canuel’s Bon Cop Bad Cop stands an excellent chance of becoming Quebec’s most successful French movie of all time. It has all the right elements to succeed in both Quebec AND Canada (and presumably a lot of Hockey loving places in the United-States as well) which is a radical departure from most homegrown cinema out of the Great French North. Unlike “Aurore” or “Séraphin: un homme et son péché” this film is accessible and entertaining, with enough local flavor to seem exotic to English viewers. Not only that, but it’s FUN. Something that a lot of us Francaises sadly forget to inject in our work. Pierre Falardeau, I’m looking at you.
After a body is found on a sign delineating the border between Quebec and Ontario, with literally 50% of itself in each province, English cop Martin Ward and French cop David Bouchard are partnered up to solve the murder. Following cryptic clues that the killer left tattooed on his victim, they discover a plot to punish the owners of a beloved Quebec hockey team who sold the franchise to Colorado. Unfortunately the killer has become aware of the investigators and it’s only a matter of time before he tries to stop our duo from interfering.
Before we go any further let’s get one big thing out of the way: This IS a standard buddy action comedy and yes we have seen this sort of thing before. However, none of that matters because this isn’t strictly about two cops from different beats getting to know and respect each other; and any Canadian (whether French or English) should damn well be able to read between the lines. In fact, I would like to ask anyone in this country who doesn’t get the none-too-subtle subtext to please get their dumb a*s out of here and move to Sweden where you’ll be publicly beaten to death by a crowd of angry Vikings. Thank you.
The conventions of the buddy cop movie fit the current situation between Quebec and Canada so well that it might as well have been written solely in order to address it. French people really are considered the wild, drunken, party animals; and English Canadians really do tend to pride themselves on being clean, patient and polite. If you’re like me and had to listen to all the BS coming from both sides over the years, it’s nice to see a movie come along and flick each of their oh-so-holy balls. Bouchard is seen as a hothead who thinks he’s above the rules, kind of like Quebec. So when he learns that sometimes breaking the rules has a way of coming back to haunt you, I’m thinking that this is a message. Yanno? Same for how Ward discovers, to his dismay, that under his seemingly gentlemanly exterior hides a martyr complex where he takes Bouchard’s crap out of spite and because he thinks he’s better than his neighbor. By the end both men have learned that they’d really like each other’s company if only they stopped acting like self-righteous morons for two minutes. That’s a lesson all of Canada can learn eh?
It’s sad to think about how the filmmakers had to use so much allegory and euphemism to confront the very real division between the French and the English; and yet still have people crawling up their a*s about the content. Hundreds of years of infighting and we still can’t just agree that sometimes we’ll disagree. I’m no socio-political expert, but a lot of the arguments between Quebec and Canada are the verbal equivalent of watching little kids throwing sand at each other. They also tend to have all the maturity of a tantrum throwing two year old. Enough already! Both of you are a goddamn embarrassment.
Anyway, back to the review.
Pierre Lebeau is hysterical in the role of Bouchard’s very French Canadian boss. His total and complete mangling of the English language is such an exaggeration, yet at the same time so dead on of the typical Quebecker that it achieves a kind of hyper-reality. All the words are there and they’re all in the right order and they even form sentences, but I still don’t know what the f**k he’s talking about. It’s all in the way he hesitates and pauses and tries too hard to pronounce everything perfectly. Lebeau also outdoes every “angry boss” from a buddy cop movie (No small achievement in itself.) by looking as if he’d like nothing better than to kill everyone in the room then have three simultaneous heart attacks.
Rick Mercer, easily one of the finest English Canadian comedians that this country has ever had, gives a nice performance as a Quebec hating TV sports pundit. Like Lebeau, Mercer’s playing a stereotype that’s sadly realistic. He also uses that polite but firm but smarmy way of talking he’s always had to great effect. He’s like the sleazy car salesman that tells you that you’re fat and impotent… unless you buy the yellow convertible, but since he phrases it so much like a compliment you forget to rip his eyes out and eat them. It’s not his best role (That would be Richard Strong in the old “Made in Canada” TV Series.) but he’s always fun to watch.
Patrick Huard, who plays Bouchard, has one of those perfectly modular faces. When he puts on a s**t eating grin he looks like the class clown, but when he scowls you’d swear he was the hitman hired by your wife to beat you to death with your own golf clubs. If I had to compare him to anyone who’d be familiar to most Film Threat readers, it’d probably be Denis Leary.
Another cool thing is that he couldn’t be more authentic as a French Canadian unless the film had included a scene of him eating Joe Louis snack cakes and drinking Pepsi for breakfast.
Colm Feore plays the straight man to Huard, as an Ontario cop who loves turtlenecks and studied English in Upper Canada College. Colm wasn’t born here, but he’s spent enough time in Canada to imitate the locals with a kind of masterful pantomime that only comes from years of being on the outside looking in. It’s all in the aloof polite tone, the slight metrosexuality and the accent.
Feore and Huard have a good chemistry together, never overplaying the tired cliché where they’re supposed to dislike each other like crazy. Instead, they’re just two guys who are stressed out about the case trying to solve it and don’t have time for each other’s crap. Yes, Cop is following the buddy movie 101 formula almost by rote, but it’s doing such a good job of it that if you’ve ever enjoyed the genre this film’s worth a look, unlike some of the drearier offering like Bad Boys.
Also, it’s such a rare pleasure to see a 100% perfectly rational killer in a movie. I totally understand the guy’s logical, well thought out reasoning and agree with his methods. Hockey team from Canada moving to the US + Crass American commercializationfiltered= Murderous rampage. Makes sense to me! Bravo my man. Well done. Cheerio. Ho-ho! Ha-ha! Pip-pip and all that.
What’s nice about the humor is that it’s not solely reliant on being local. The jokes are constructed so that even people on the outside will at the very least get the gist of it. You might not understand what the hell is so funny, but you’ll laugh anyway. It kinda goes like this: If you’re from Kwebek you’ll piss yourself, if you’re from the rest of Canada you’ll laugh, if you’re from the Northeast United-States you’ll giggle and if you’re from Utah you’ll need a translator and an explanation.
My only real beef is that the film never uses my favorite French Canadian swear word: “Tête de Plotte”, which is roughly translated as “C**t Head”. That’s alright though; they can use it in the sequel.