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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Movie Review: 'Hot Pursuit'

The female roadtrip comedy Hot Pursuit is a shoddy, hot mess.

Review by Matt Cummings

In Director Anne Fletcher's Hot Pursuit, the uptight Texas cop Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) tries to protect the wife of a Mexican drug lord (Sofia Vergara) after her to-be-snitch-husband buys it in a shootout. Cooper is by-the-book, instantly clashing with Daniella Riva's wall-to-wall shoe fetish and ignorance of the dangers she's under. Cooper brings along her own baggage as well, suffering from an embarrassing incident that's left her desk-ridden. Before Cooper and Riva can arrive in Dallas, they must go on the roadtrip from hell, dodging dirty cops, senior citizens, and a fierce drug lord who Riva blames for the death of her husband.

From the moment Fletcher's film begins, we know exactly where this low-brow comedy will go. There's a transvestite in the back of a cop car, to a supposedly funny tasing of a college student that sets him on fire, each of which sets its bar pretty low but never truly makes it very funny. There's no sequence that will leave you in stitches, nor any that haven't already seen in other (better) films. I had similar feelings going in to John Wick and The Equalizer, but the reasons those succeeded are based on the quality of the production and its characters. You'll never feel a connection to these characters, making anything that happens feel one-off and at some points boring. Even at 87 minutes, I found myself looking at my watch in many sequences, because I simply didn't care about the paper-thin characters and their interactions.

For all her looks, Vergara simply cannot keep up with Witherspoon, struggling to get one-liners out with her heavy accent while Witherspoon patiently waits. Known recently for her more serious roles, Witherspoon is perhaps one of the great understated comedic properties in film: remember that she's played Elle Woods to near-perfection). Here, she's just not given that much comedic meat in the sandwich, achieving some physical comedy with her amazingly-short stature, nearly getting caught in Vergara's near-Amazonian shadow. I get the physical comedic juxtaposition, but when that's mostly all you've got, one has to wonder if the real humor was drained away in audience feedback.

Fletcher and Writers David Feeney and John Quaintance just don't click, mixing the dull-low brow with Fletcher's shoddy camera work, including another batch of horrible CGI. There's a ton of on-the-nose foreshadowing here, all of which happens with checkbox clockwork. The worst centers on a former con (Pacific Rim's Robert Kazinsky) who got arrested for battery, who just so happens to beat up someone in the movie. Convenient. And then there's the hollow plot twists that suffer from zero build up, including one that feels like it was either hastily added or part of a larger set of scenes that were axed. It's these sort of missteps and bad decisions that ultimately derail what should have been a rip-roaring good time.

I've made on many occasions my love for low-brow comedies like Bachelor Party, Ted, and The Watch. Hot Pursuit isn't anywhere close, on the same level as 2015's The Wedding Ringer or Get Hard. None of these capture their talent's immense abilities, leaving audiences with the same empty feeling of spending good money on the Paquao/Mayweather dullfest. Pursuit might be worth your time once it reaches Netflix, but it's quite simply something you can forget for now.

Hot Pursuit is Rated PG-13 for sexual content, violence, language and some drug material and has runtime of 87 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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