Just barely over a decade ago, the buddy cop/culture clash/comedy/action flick Bon Cop Bad Cop became the highest grossing Canadian film of all time at the domestic box office (and still is if you choose not to count Resident Evil sequels as being truly Canadian offerings). It was a breezy, lightweight, and enjoyable enough romp through mismatched copper tropes and gags aimed squarely at differences between Ontarians and the Quebecois. It wasn’t high art and not much of a spectacle packed blockbuster when placed into comparison with its American or Asian brethren, but one would have expected a sequel to arrive sooner than eleven years after the original made such waves. But for anyone who was still waiting with baited breath for another adventure featuring straight-laced Toronto detective Martin Ward (Colm Feore) and edgy Montreal cop David Bouchard (Patrick Huard), the time that’s passed shouldn’t be a worry. While the returns are slightly diminished for Bon Cop Bad Cop 2, there are still some improvements, and the charming chemistry between Feore and Huard remains effortlessly fun to watch.
Detective Ward, now working for the RCMP, gets thrust back into Bouchard’s orbit when it turns out that they’re both working on the same case. Bouchard has been embedded undercover in a massive chop shop operation, and he suspects that there’s a bigger plan beneath the auto theft ring then initially lets on. Bouchard agrees to help Ward’s investigation, mostly because the RCMP have better resources, but friction between the two cops arise as the dangers and threats related to their job become more personal. Bouchard’s family is strengthening, while Ward’s continues to fall apart, and at a certain point the former starts showing extreme concern for the latter’s well-being and newfound death wish tendencies.
In short, it’s pretty much every buddy cop sequel ever made, but writer Huard (getting sole screenplay credit this time out) and new director Alain Desrochers (the popular Quebecois Nitro films) own up to what they’re doing. Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 almost refreshingly eschews self-reflection and wears every cliché like a heart on its sleeve. Nothing has changed with the suave and reckless Bouchard and the smart and hapless Ward – save for some deeper personal problems for the latter – but instead of a murder investigation, the duo are plopped into a plot that cribs liberally from Gone in Sixty Seconds and 2 Fast 2 Furious, minus, of course, a lot of large scale car chases (because this is a modestly budgeted Canadian film, after all). There’s a stock, unmemorable villain (Noam Jenkins), a bad-guy lackey (Marc Beaupré) who functions mostly as the butt of jokes for Bouchard, and an over-the-top, cartoonish, enthusiastic RCMP tech guru (Mariana Mazza), all trucked in from other, more established buddy cop franchises and television series. There’s an obvious twist that hits perfectly on cue. Everything unfolds almost exactly as you think it will.
You’ve literally seen this movie before, but the relaxed, laid back tone of Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 takes things further than they probably would have gone otherwise. The film still rises and falls on the chemistry between Feore and Huard, and they’re assuredly what will get the audience through an admittedly dry, wheel-spinning second act. Desrochers also proves to be a good choice of director, giving this sequel something the original film lacked: a more polished visual style. There might not be much of a budget to this sequel, but Descrochers is determined to make it look as dynamic as possible. Clocking in unnecessarily at over two hours, the pacing is still off, but at least Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 succeeds more than it fails, and it succeeds in slightly more inventive ways than its predecessor.
Paradoxically, this sequel’s greatest narrative and comedic asset is how it jettisons the very concept that made the first outing such a success. The Ontario vs. Quebec squabbling that made up for the bulk of the first movie’s gags have been pushed to the side in favour of federal vs. provincial and Canada vs. America differences. Bouchard and Ward no longer have to poke fun at how they do their jobs, and that change means that Huard and Feore can just play their already established characters as people, rather than delivery systems for politically loaded jokes. The shift in focus to larger themes allows the leads to have fun with these characters working together instead of constantly watching them come apart. Sure, that makes this a much more standard buddy cop flick, but it’s a satisfying one that boasts characters the audience can have even more respect for. There’s a focus on the duo doing their jobs to the best of their abilities rather than fighting over petty differences, and the change is much appreciated.
Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 hits the ground running at full speed, and for the promising first thirty minutes or so, it feels like no time has passed at all between Ward and Bouchard, but then things begin to lag thanks to a character-heavy, action-light middle third that brings the duo to small town America to deal with doofus local cops and zealous FBI agents. Plot developments that tie the film’s villains to foreign terrorism and the alt-right movement in America start to form, but they’re so poorly defined that I’m not sure if they’re in bad taste, secretly subversive, or just another bunch of clichés searching for meaning. The wheels come off entirely during the half-baked, highly illogical Maine set finale (where U.S. teens inexplicably speak perfectly accented French and the street signs all look curiously Canadian), but at least the action returns in spite of viewers needing a healthy suspension of disbelief for it all to work.
I feel like I’ve written this review for several movies before in my twenty year career, and I’m pretty sure I will write it again. That didn’t diminish the fun I was able to have during the best moments of Bon Cop Bad Cop 2. There’s definitely a time and place for these kinds of popcorn flicks, and I’ll never begrudge a film with more hits than misses that clearly only wants to give the audience a good time and does so without being cynical. I don’t know if it would have worked as well without Feore and Huard, though. They have made these films what they are and should be held up as the biggest keys to this mini-franchise’s success. For them, I would watch another sequel, but let’s hope they could get some more money and time to make the next outing ever better.