Despite the title, this isn’t a place where you shop for cops. This is more like 1976’s (or 2005’s) Assault on Precinct 13, which has its roots as far back as John Wayne’s classic Western, Rio Bravo. And it’s brought to us by ‘blood ‘n’ bullets’ Joe Carnahan, the poor man’s Guy Ritchie.
Looks like it’s gonna be one of those nights at the isolated Gun Creek City police station in Nevada. An otherwise quiet night, whip-smart officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) and her stereotypical yelling sergeant (Christopher Michael Holley) have booked two unlikely guys into the basement drunk tank: a messed-up, shot, and nervous Teddy Murreto (Frank Grillo) and a fall-down drunk (Gerard Butler). But it soon becomes apparent that the drunk isn’t really soused; he’s Bob Viddick, a calculating hired assassin who got himself arrested in order to kill Teddy as part of a contract.
But there’s a problem. As the curious officer Young is trying to figure out who the people are in the basement, in walks a psychopathic contract killer named Anthony Lamb (Toby Huss), and this guy’s crazier than a loon! As Young is getting the 411 on the guys downstairs and learning about their past, Lamb is busy upstairs plying his bloody trade. Pretty soon, a shot and bleeding Young is hold-up along with the calm & cool assassin Viddick, his nervous mark Murreto, and a wacko Lamb outside who’s just waiting to kill everyone in sight. Not a great way to spend a Friday night!
Now, if this plot sound familiar, it is. It’s a common trope that’s been used dozens of times in many, many movies, and director/co-writer Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces, The Grey, The A-Team), along with first-time writer Kurt McLeod, have come up with a relatively paint-by-the-numbers script that doesn’t give us anything new, but does deliver on two things: some decent performances and Carnahan’s excellent direction, which is a combination of Terry Gilliam’s wide-angle close-up’s and Guy Ritchie’s frenetic shoot’em up’s. Besides a side plot with a rogue cop stealing some pot, the main story moves nicely with surprising tension that is ratcheted up from scene to scene.
The biggest problem with the script is the third act climax, which is SO ridiculous, SO preposterous, SO over-the-top absurd and laughable, that it makes you shake your head and say, “Are you kidding me?” Yes, the cinematography is remarkable and stylized, but jeepers! It’s so utterly dumb, I seriously wonder if it was someone’s idea of a joke. Luckily the performances throughout were spot-on. Louder is exceptional as the grounded rookie cop with a killer quick-draw; a nice call-back to the ol’ Westerns. Holley, as the A-typical gruff desk sergeant is lovably funny in a Brooklyn-99 kinda way, and the tag-team of Grillo & Butler is just Heaven. They make it look SO easy and can do this sort of stuff in their sleep.
**Now playing only in theaters
Rio Bravo (1959)
In the world of “a bad guy is in prison and a bunch of assassins are after him” movie tropes, this movie pretty much started it, being remade dozens of times into Rio Lobo (1966), Assault on Precinct 13 (1976 & 2005), Support Your Local Sheriff (1969), and many more. But this film has John frickkin’ Wayne in it!
A Western to die for: this cast stars the Duke, Dean Martin, pop singer & teen heart-throb Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, and Angie Dickinson. It was also directed by Hollywood legend Howard Hawks (The Big Sleep, Red River, Gentleman Prefer Blondes). Based on the short story, Rio Bravo, by B. H. McCampbell, this gorgeous-looking movie (beautiful cinematography by Russell Harlan) deals with rough ‘n’ ready sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne) and his dealings with the town’s wealthy land baron, Nathan Burdette (John Russell). Looks like Nathan’s spoiled and entitled younger brother, Joe (Claude Atkins), has been a naughty boy, killing a man for fun in a saloon. Chance arrests the man and that’s where the trouble begins.
Chance’s friend, Pat Wheeler (Bond) attempts to enter the town with a wagon train of supplies and dynamite, but is stopped in time. Chance reveals that he, a hopeless drunk named Dude (Martin), and his old crippled deputy Stumpy (Brennan) are all that stand between Nathan’s small army and Joe, whom they wish to free from jail. Adding to Chance’s numbers is a young gunslinger just named Colorado (Nelson), but is this kid even trustworthy? Things escalate as Wheeler is gunned down and the local saloon girl, Feathers (Dickinson), warns Chance about the impending doom ahead. Plus, she’s falling for the big lug, too!
Dude, trying to redeem himself from being the town drunk, gets clean and rejoins Chance as his deputy, while everyone’s nerves are frayed waiting for the inevitable to happen. And it finally does with a hail of bullets, dynamite, fist-fights, and kidnappings. Although John Wayne had sworn off making Westerns after The Searchers in 1956, he came back for this one, igniting a second phase in his Western film career. It was also a taking a huge risk in hiring chart-topping singer Ricky Nelson as a hired gunslinger, after all, his only acting was on the silly TV series, Here Comes The Nelsons, where he played himself. Megastar and crooner Dean Martin, on the other hand, had only done comedies, so this dramatic role was quite the major departure for him.
As far as screenplays go, Jules Furthman (Mutiny on the Bounty) and Leigh Brackman (El Dorado, The Big Sleep), cranked out a winner here, making it one of the top-rated Westerns of all time. It also, like I pointed out, spawned many tropes of its kind where a prisoner in a jail cell is either attacked or rescued. This movie itself was remade twice, El Dorado in 1996 (written by Brackman, as well) and then again in 1970 called Rio Lobo. Let’s face it, if you’re a fan of the Western genre like I am, you’re gonna love this movie! Rent or stream it today!