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Wrong Cops
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by Jay Seaver

"Less wrong than 'Wrong', still gets it right."
4 stars

"Rubber" was surreal. "Wrong" was bizarre. Spinoff "Wrong Cops" is peculiar. At this rate, Quentin Dupieux is only a few films away from doing something eccentric but basically sensible. Fortunately, he's not there yet, and the plentiful gags he stuffs into this movie's lean eighty minutes are both quite odd and very funny.

If you saw Wrong, you almost certainly remember the cop played by Mark Burnham, who absolutely stole the two scenes he was in. Here, his Officer Duke sells weed with unusual packaging, harasses a student (Marilyn Manson) over his music choices, and has to dispose of the body of his neighbor (Daniel Quinn) who is not quite dead yet. He tries to foist that job off on desk cop Sunshine (Steve Little), who is able to get out of it by a stroke of luck, and also visits his friend Rough (Eric Judor), a one-eyed cop whose passion is music. Also on the job are Officers De Luca (Eric Wareheim) and Holmes (Arden Myrin), who don't abuse their power as much as they could because they are rather lazy.

Giving a character/actor who excelled in short bursts his own movie is a risky thing, and Dupieux doesn't quite do that - Burnham isn't necessarily playing the same character and many actors from Wrong show up in different roles here (though fans of that movie will smile when they see a man walking his dog). The thing that hasn't changed is that many of these cops are certainly not underdogs the audience is going to pull for (well, maybe Rough is, and Sunshine sort of gets put in that position), but a group of folks' whose amorality combined with incompetence causes some decidedly odd stuff to happen. However, if there's no-one to root for, there's also nobody you can't laugh at.

And Dupieux does give the audience plenty to laugh at; there's not a moment that isn't part of some absurd set-up or off-kilter reaction, almost all played so deadpan that a non-reaction becomes part of the joke. The gags are doled out at a remarkably steady pace rather than fit to a plot or built around big set-pieces; there's no big, ridiculous chase scene to be found. The movie mostly just follows odd characters, although it dips into parody on occasion, especially a running freeze-frame bit and mockery of Rough's music (which, like all the music in the film, is material Dupieux recorded as "Mr. Oizo").

The cast does fairly well with their deadpan material; while Burnham is mostly just abrasive, he does that quite well and makes his character funnier than he should be by rights. Eric Wareheim does something similar - De Luca is a genuine creep, but he's bad enough at it that one can laugh. Eric Judor and Arden Myrin are the ones who steal the show, though, he with his meek but optimistic defense of his music and she by getting to be the one that plays these cops' corrupt and apathetic nature large. There are also some fun "guest stars" that pop up, from Agnes Brucker in the beginning to Kurt Fuller as a skeptical music producer. Heck, by the time Ray Wise pops up toward the end, you've probably forgotten he was in the opening titles, making him a pleasant surprise!

For as much as "Wrong Cops" is less completely strange than Dupieux's other movies, it's still a weird little comedy, maybe an acquired taste. Still, it doesn't waste any precious time on things other than trying to make its audience laugh, and if the filmmaker's strange sense of humor has worked for a viewer before, it probably will here as well.

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originally posted: 01/12/14 08:11:32
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 15-Apr-2014



Directed by
  Quentin Dupieux

Written by
  Quentin Dupieux

  Mark Burnham
  Marilyn Manson
  Steve Little
  Eric Wareheim

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