Cop Secret (2021) Review – BFI Flare

Cop Secret (2021)
Director: Hannes Þór Halldórsson
Screenwriters: Nína Pedersen, Sverrir Þór Sverrisson, Hannes Þór Halldórsson
Starring: Auðunn Blöndal, Egill Einarsson, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir

Icelandic buddy cop comedy Cop Secret comes to us from professional footballer-turned filmmaker Hannes Þór Halldórsson and is based on a spoof film trailer made for TV a decade ago. You wouldn’t know that was the movie’s background purely based on the the final product, which struts its stuff with confidence and boasts a team who are certainly enthusiastic with the manner in which they recreate genre tropes, even if a lot of it looks unavoidably less expensive than the Hollywood equivalent. A US remake starring Ryan Reynolds and Channing Tatum is frankly inevitable.

The two most successful cops from neighbouring city districts in Iceland, Bússi (Auðunn Blöndal) and Hörður (Egill Einarsson), are forced by their superiors to team up in order to stop a dangerous criminal gang’s spree of bank heists and something big planned for a major football game, all the while Bússi wrestles with who he really is.

Is Cop Secret an outright parody? Only to the same extent that something like Hot Fuzz is. As Mel Brooks would tell you, you have to really love these movies and know the stylistic conventions inside and out in order to take the piss out of them effectively. In the film’s most self-aware moment, following a particularly disastrous operation, the police chief reels off a lengthy list of Bússi’s previous unseen and increasingly unlikely adventures (highlights include “The stork you shot at city pond in front of those pre-schoolers” and “You drove a bus full of civilians into the opera house!”) in a manner only one step removed from the gag trailers for ridiculous upcoming sequels in 22 Jump Street. They even do the Michal Bay slo-mo “rising into frame” (AKA the Bad Boys shot) at one point.

The main difference between this and most buddy cop films, from Lethal Weapon to The Last Boy Scout (and others not written by Shane Black as well), aside from an unexpected added romantic subplot, is that neither of the leads are the by-the-book good cop in their partnership; both Bússi and Hörður are mavericks on their respective forces who get results. Both rack up a considerable body count throughout this, almost like it’s a competition, much to the frustration of their chiefs. 

So you have a super cop who’s jacked (Einarsson is a fitness guru as well as a comedian and actor), pansexual and well-educated, with a capacity for multiple languages – “except Danish, on principle” – and a much more traditional bad boy, but one reluctant to admit to who he really is. A cop confronting his closeted sexuality in the mirror with a gun is pretty on the nose as metaphors go, but it works in the moment (“Are you a cop or what?”). It’s also an elegantly simple solution to the normal problem of the love interest in cop movies feeling tacked on; just have the cops fall for each other whilst out on the case.

You always know someone’s really bad news when they’re shown shaving with a combat knife and seem to like the taste of their own blood. Rikki (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) is one hell of a strange creation, looking like a particularly flamboyant and well-groomed (he was a model before turning to a life of crime) vampire with some of the most uniquely accented pronunciations of English dialogue you’re ever likely to hear (constantly perplexing his gang who ask “Why doesn’t he just speak Icelandic?”).

“We can’t shoot half the crew in the middle of a job!” Rikki’s exasperated second in command reminds him, no matter how annoying he finds one of the henchmen who moans about the complete lack of refreshments provided before their heists. Suffice to say, once they’ve got what they need from the banks they hit, there is a plan involving a bomb threat to keep the cops busy (“Like in Die Hard 3“) and Bússi and Hörður will be forced to work together to stop them despite the former’s emotional torment and the latter’s history with Rikki. 

Some time-honoured genre tropes employed in the film feel a little more tired, like the criminal gang’s professional torturer, who of course listens to calming classical music as he meticulously prepares his tools of pain, and the supporting characters who are very obviously introduced purely to be collateral damage. A bit of gun-fu is thrown in for good measure towards the end as well, but it’s far from polished, though it does build to a great and ridiculous skewering of the classic Mexican standoff.

Cop Secret introduces welcome queer story elements and modern liberal attitudes (“It’s 2021, no-one gives a sh*t!”) to a traditionally hyper-hetero filmic landscape. It affectionately ribs the most popular conventions of cop action movies and produces some decent laughs and cheer-worthy moments, even if it doesn’t set the world on fire. A fair directorial debut from a former sportsman then, and hopefully one that will inspire even more daring deconstructions of action cinema in the future. 


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