Even if you hadn't seen a trailer for Copshop, the hook of Joe Carnahan's new thriller would likely give away it's a Gerard Butler movie – and we don't mean that as a criticism.
The high-concept plot centres on a con artist who gets himself arrested to hide out from a lethal hitman, only for said hitman to get himself arrested too. It's a throwback '70s outing heavily reminiscent of Assault on Precinct 13, especially when a competing hitman enters the fold.
Butler stars as hitman Bob Viddick alongside Frank Grillo as his target Teddy Murretto in another piece of 'of course' casting. Viddick's after Murretto for reasons unknown and their situation is complicated by the presence of rookie police officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder).
Viddick is one of those hitmen with a moral compass, so if Young just stays out of his way, she'll be fine. He might have once beat a man to death with his own leg (that Viddick amputated), but he's just doing his job.
Of course, it's never that easy, as Young's investigation into what Murretto did brings another hitman into the picture – and this one absolutely is a psychopath. It's the kind of setup that you're either on-board with or instantly out, and for those who like the sound of it, Copshop delivers the goods.
What might surprise you is that Copshop is not as action-heavy as the marketing suggests, with Carnahan content to let the tension build before the shit hits the fan. He course-corrects too much though, as the opening half of the movie staggers a bit through various clichés, such as a corrupt cop and a Chekhov's gun (well, a bullet in this case).
With both Murretto and Viddick locked up early on, there's some fairly dull procedural elements with a mystery that doesn't warrant the time spent on it. Butler and Grillo make the best of a stilted script as they trade barbs and manipulate the situation, but you're always waiting for what's going to be the one moment that blows things open.
That comes in the form of Toby Yuss as the second hitman Anthony Lamb, who livens up the movie and kicks off its stronger second half. Lamb is unhinged and the bullets start flying while he spouts pop culture references like, "You look like Tom Cruise in that samurai pic nobody watched" when he sees Murretto's man bun.
Yuss delivers a performance that shows he knows exactly the type of movie he's in, and it raises the game of everyone around him. The conflicting dynamics of the group – two competing assassins, a con man and an officer – mean you're never sure what's happening next or what each character is going to do. The slow-building tension of the first half is replaced by exactly the kind of movie you expect Copshop to be.
And the movie has one Joker up its sleeve in the form of the excellent Alexis Louder as the hero you actually end up rooting for. In her biggest role to date, she outshines the more established members of the cast and holds her own when Carnahan lets loose with the action scenes.
If things get a bit ridiculous in the climax during a frenetic gunfight, Louder's performance means you're invested in her survival. She even gets some classic action hero badass moments to continue the '70s vibe of the whole movie, where Dirty Harry has been a clear influence on her character.
Copshop might not exactly rewrite the rulebook, but it's aware enough of its tone to (mostly) hit the mark of what fans would want from it – and sometimes that's more than enough.
Copshop is out now in UK cinemas and is released in US cinemas on September 17.
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