It has been nearly a decade since Canadian audiences flocked to see the sleeper hit buddy-cop comedy, Bon Cop Bad Cop, which cast well known, homegrown talents Patrick Huard and Colm Feore as Quebecois and Ontarian police officers, respectively. Until recently, the first film was the highest grossing Canadian film of all time (and still is if you don’t count things like the Resident Evil franchise as being Canadian), so it’s perhaps a bit surprising to some that it has taken so long to pull together what seems like a sure fire sequel.
This weekend, Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 finally makes its way to theatres nationwide, with veteran French Canadian director Alain Desrochers at the helm and a script penned by star and producer Huard (who received story credit for the previous film). Huard’s boisterous, crafty, and boundary pushing David Bouchard and Feore’s restrained, serious, and intelligent Martin Ward are brought together once again when they find out they’re working on taking down an international car theft ring that might have ties to terrorism. Much like the first film, the pair clash over the different ways they perform their jobs, but this time out they find more resistance when their investigation uncovers an American connection, and their neighbours to the south proceed to make their work even harder.
It’s a natural and timely sounding hook for a buddy cop comedy, but it doesn’t seem like something that should take ten years to make. Despite the relatively overwhelming success of the original Bon Cop Bad Cop, Desrochers says that there remains skittishness in Canada to deliver even financially established genre bending mash-ups.
“The release pattern for Canadian films often feels like drama, drama, drama, and then a comedy,” Desrochers jokes with a hearty laugh in a downtown Toronto boardroom the morning after Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 had its premiere in the city and the day before the film’s wide theatrical release. “I’m a bit frustrated that we don’t respect action movies or comedies as much as we do dramas. It’s really hard to make a comedy, and it’s really hard to make an action movie. I could make dramatic movies about a man sitting around and thinking about his life in an empty field for hours and hours, and that could be meaningful and rewarding I guess if you do it right, but there’s something about making a comedy and the timing of it that’s so invigorating. It’s so hard to make those kinds of films. I think with Bon Cop Bad Cop 2, we’re combining the action and comedy with a lot of emotion, and sometimes people forget that comedies and action films can also be emotional experiences. I’m always surprised that we don’t respect those types of movies enough.”
“For me, what’s important and what I like about this particular story is that it says that we are all different, but it’s important to respect each other. It’s possible to laugh about our differences and respect each other.”
Despite Canadian cinema not generally gravitating towards the same kinds of commercially viable genre fare that Hollywood typically traffics in, Desrochers was still able to have a wide career in various genres and mediums. He has produced hundreds of music videos and commercials. He has helmed numerous episodes of French and English television series. His feature film output includes everything from comedies to biopics, but perhaps what got him most noticed for his most recent gig was the film Nitro, a 2007 action film which was successful enough in Quebec to get a sequel. Much like Bon Cop Bad Cop, Nitro also took almost a full decade to get its sequel made.
But with Nitro coming out after the 2006 success of director Eric Canuel’s Bon Cop Bad Cop, Desrochers has always looked fondly on Huard and Feore’s first outing as something that opened more doors for his own career as a director who wanted to experiment with many different filmmaking styles within the same project.
“My feelings for the first film were very good,” he says when asked about what the first Bon Cop Bad Cop meant to him as a filmgoer. “I think I saw it three times, and when that movie came out everyone was so surprised to see a Canadian action-comedy, so it was cool to see how well it did. These were the kinds of genres that didn’t get crossed much. I remember Yves Simoneau made a film called Dans le ventre du dragon, which was this cool cross between comedy, science-fiction, and drama, and I always remembered wanting to do something like that, but those kinds of movies were always hard to get made. They always felt like they had to be one thing or another, but Simoneau really was one of the first people I remember in Canada making films like this. Then, Mr. Canuel made something special with the first Bon Cop Bad Cop, and then I made an action film, myself, called Nitro, and then we produced a sequel to that film. I absolutely think that Bon Cop Bad Cop allowed me to make something like Nitro. I had also done a lot with comedy on television in Quebec and even made serious dramatic films, and I had worked with Patrick on a television series in 2002, and we always got along. I think when he came to me he just thought, ‘Man, you’ve done action, comedy, and dramatic, touching movies. You’re the director I need to do Bon Cop Bad Cop 2.”
During our conversation, Desrochers states that two of his greatest comedic and filmmaking influences were Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, the former of whom gets directly referenced in a visual gag at the end of one of Bon Cop Bad Cop 2’s grandest action sequences, and the latter of whom Desrochers credits as the all time master of mise en scene. This admiration for attention to detail was shared by Huard, Desrocher’s closest collaborator on this sequel.
“Patrick, who as you know was also a stand-up comic, has such great timing, and he was such a great asset every step of the way,” the director says of his constant collaboration with Huard on Bon Cop Bad Cop 2. “He was really severe in the edit, too. We did about five test screenings with the public before finishing the edit, and he was always paying attention to those reactions with me, and he put in a lot of work. He has so much passion, and with Patrick I was dealing with a writer, a producer, and a star all in one. But Patrick always said, ‘Man, on the set, I’m listening to you.’ It was cool, and he’s a good friend and a wonderful guy with so many big ideas. If there was ever something we were unsure about how the audience would react to it, he was the first person with an idea. He was talking with us about the script all the time. He knew the meaning and purpose of every scene before I even got there, and we still had a great relationship. He’s a really intelligent guy, and that’s something you see on screen. And that doesn’t even touch on his collaboration with Colm Feore, which is amazing. Even to watch them promoting the film together is a joy to be around.”
“I’m a bit frustrated that we don’t respect action movies or comedies as much as we do dramas. It’s really hard to make a comedy, and it’s really hard to make an action movie.”
Everyone involved with Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 knew that for audiences to fully enjoy the antics of Ward and Bouchard a second time, the film would have to remain true to the characters, enhance them on comedic and dramatic levels, and most importantly, the action had to be bigger and better. Descrochers, who already has one action movie sequel under his belt, says that when it comes to making a bigger and better action sequel, money and timing isn’t everything, but experience and composure is.
“It’s so interesting for me to think about that,” he remarks when we begin talking about how action movie sequels are usually more intense and heightened than the original films they spawned from. “I learned a lot about working on a scale like this from doing my first action movie, Nitro, which was a film where we didn’t have a lot of experience with making that kind of film, but we had a decent budget of about seven million dollars. The sequel, however, we only had about five million to work on, but we all had more experience after having made the first film. But if you look at both of the films, the second one looks a lot bigger because of that experience. We also knew that the action would have to be of a certain rhythm for people to want to follow it, and that lesson was what I took into Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 the most. I learned a lot from those films, and I’m learning every day. I think directors should be learning every day because making any sort of movie or any sort of art is a constant work in progress.”
Outside of some hardships that have developed in the life of RCMP officer Martin Ward, and David Bouchard getting in over his head while deep undercover in a chop-shop operation, not much has changed about Feore and Huard’s characters, with one huge exception: they don’t needle, and belittle each other nearly as much. Whenever a difference between English and French Canadian culture comes up, they chuckle at it and move on. But when their investigation brings them to small town Maine, they become further united against a common enemy that sees the Canadian police as a punchline to a joke.
Making fun of Canadians has been a staple of American pop culture for quite some time now, but Desrochers relished the chance to flip that script in Bon Cop Bad Cop 2, and showcase a story that unites the still growing franchise’s heroes instead of finding contrived ways of pulling them apart again.
“We wanted to finally be able to laugh at the Americans the way they sometimes laugh at us, but in a fun, joking way.”
“For me, what’s important and what I like about this particular story is that it says that we are all different, but it’s important to respect each other. It’s possible to laugh about our differences and respect each other. This is why I really enjoyed when Patrick came to me and asked me if I was interested in directing Bon Cop Bad Cop 2, and of course I said yes because after the success of the first one, I didn’t want to say no. I looked at the script, and when I read it I thought it was f**king amazing because the film still had those kinds of fights over cultural differences that we can all laugh about, but this time it was also about this Ontario guy and the Quebec guy against the American empire. And this was two years ago when he came to me with the script, and having Colm and Patrick’s characters working together and setting aside a lot of their pettier differences for greater reasons suddenly became something we couldn’t predict would become something real to tap into. I love the timing. (laughs) It’s perfect right now.”
“We wanted to finally be able to laugh at the Americans the way they sometimes laugh at us, but in a fun, joking way,” he continues while going on to praise the American way of filmmaking. “I would really like to do another American movie. I actually just did one coming out this August that I shot last year with Antonio Banderas and Sir Ben Kingsley in Bulgaria [titled Security]. That’s an action movie and not a comedy at all, but it was such a cool experience to work with them. I’m still curious to see what Americans think of [Bon Cop Bad Cop 2], and I can’t wait to see their reactions. I have an American agent, and I thinking I might send him a copy of this film to see what he thinks of it.”
But unlike many of his previous films or the recent American film he produced, Desrochers didn’t have stars as immediately compatible as Feore and Huard stepping back into established, beloved roles. While, the filmmaker does admit that it made sticking to what made the first Bon Cop Bad Cop such a success, it still doesn’t make the process of making a large scale action film any easier on a technical level.
“Of course, when your two stars complement each other so well, it makes things easier, but nothing is ever easy,” he laughs while forming an analogy about how hard action-comedies are to make. “Believe me. This is still a 10.2 or 10.4 million dollar movie across 42 days of shooting with a lot of mechanical rigs, special effects, stunts, and all sorts of stuff we need to make it happen. A good example of this would be how at the end of the film we have an [armoured] truck suspended from a crane. That was a fake truck because a real truck would have weighed twenty-five tons. The one that we used was made of aluminum and still weighed five tons even empty. (laughs) So whether you’re moving five tons or twenty-five tons, you’re still putting in a lot of heavy lifting. (laughs)”