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Hot Pursuit (2015)

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Score: 3/10

Genre: Action Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 27 min.

Release Date: May 8th, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Anne Fletcher Actors: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, Matthew Del Negro, Michael Mosley, Robert Kazinsky, Richard T. Jones, John Carroll Lynch, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia

R

ose Cooper’s (Reese Witherspoon) childhood consisted of a series of ride-alongs with her police officer father, shaping her eventual career as a member of the San Antonio Police Department. But her procedural personality and by-the-books approach to every interaction makes her a rather intense, rigid conversationalist and the laughingstock of the precinct, where she’s reduced to a mere evidence room clerk after Tasering a college kid until he caught fire – a victim who had drunkenly exclaimed he wanted to ride shotgun, which Cooper mistook for admittance of carrying a deadly weapon. Nevertheless, in between keeping current on her police codes and failing at intimidated first dates, she’s proud of simply being on the team.

When Vicente Cortez (Joaquin Cosio) – a feared cartel man who dominated the drug trade in Texas and was wanted for over 100 murders – is arrested in Dallas, Cooper is given another opportunity to prove herself as somewhat competent. Felipe Riva (Vincent Laresca), Cortez’ moneyman, is to be placed in Witness Protection and taken to testify against his boss; his shapely wife Daniella (Sofia Vergara) is required to be escorted by a female officer – and tomboy Cooper is the right candidate. Alongside U.S. Marshal Jackson (Richard T. Jones), Cooper gets caught in a shootout at the Riva’s estate, prompting the unprepared cop and her stripper-heeled charge to flee in a commandeered civilian vehicle.

From there, “Hot Pursuit” is a standard chase film (just look at its title) so adherent to formulaic buddy-cop projects (like “48 Hrs.” or “Rush Hour”) that it couldn’t more closely match the lead protagonist’s stringent perspective. Bad guys aren’t quite the bad guys, the cops aren’t quite the good guys, the criminal must aid the lawwoman, and the hightailing heroines quickly become wanted fugitives ripe for action-oriented misadventures. They’re complete opposites with mismatched motives – ideal for clashing exchanges, rambunctious hijinks, and sisterly bonding. But since the storyline never gets any more complex than the basic premise of wrongfully accused absconders, the escapade feels like it’s over before it even begins.

At least, the mood is light and the antagonists so phony that predicaments remain entirely playful. Slapstick, conservative cursing, and nonviolent proposals always thwart death and destruction; even after a catfight with guns repeatedly shoved in faces, the main couple continue to work together as if friendship is a genuine defense against bullets. Witherspoon appears a touch too old to pull off such an imbecilic role, akin to Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprising their “Dumb and Dumber” characters (in “Dumb and Dumber To”) long after they’ve matured to the point that their idiocy wouldn’t be remotely convincing. Meanwhile, Vergara embodies the same persona she made famous on TV’s “Modern Family” – a loud, heavily accented, overblown stereotype of an unintelligent Colombian trophy wife. And comedian Jim Gaffigan makes a brief appearance, but his potential for humor is grossly underused. Although a line or two of sexual innuendo and sequences of horseplay might muster chuckles, it’s extremely obvious that there wasn’t enough material in the script for a feature-length movie. The outtakes at the end are likely the funniest moments of the whole thing.

– Mike Massie

 



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