We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Anyone without a history of watching James Woods in the movies might easily misread “Cop.” They might think this is simply a violent, sick, contrived exploitation picture, and that would certainly be an accurate description of its surfaces. But Woods operates in this movie almost as if he were writing his own footnotes. He uses his personality, his voice and his quirky sense of humor to undermine the material and comment on it, until “Cop” becomes an essay on this whole genre of movie. And then, with the movie’s startling last shot, Woods slams shut the book.
The film stars Woods, who is the most engaging and unconventional of leading men, as a brilliant but twisted cop. He’s a lone ranger, and he likes to shoot first and ask questions later. In the movie’s unsettling opening scene, he kills a man who is possibly innocent, and then lets his partner clean up the mess while he tries to pick up the dead man’s date. No wonder Woods is considered a danger to public safety, even by his own superiors. He makes Dirty Harry look cool and reflective.
Before long a plot begins to emerge. A dead body is discovered, and Woods, working backwards from the date of the crime and piecing together apparently unrelated clues, becomes convinced that the dead woman is the latest of a long string of murders by the same serial killer. His superiors don’t want to hear about it. The last thing Los Angeles needs is another mass murderer.
But Woods persists. He interviews a kinky cop and cross-examines a feminist bookstore owner (Lesley Ann Warren), whose high school yearbook may contain the clue to the mystery. Can it be that events 20 years ago in high school have triggered a series of killings that have continued ever since? It can in Woods’ mind, and he stays on the case even after the department has stripped him of his badge and gun because of . . . well, because basically he represents a danger to the community.