Can you handle the humor of Cop Chronicles: Loose Cannons: The Legend of the Haj-Mirage? Eight minutes in, there’s a litmus test presented in the form of a bear attack. Trigger-happy cop Higgs (Benjamin Crutcher) is wandering through the wilderness in search of his off-the-grid partner McGraw (Joe LoCicero) when the unthinkable happens: BEAR ATTACK. This brawling bear is not the snarling, razor-toothed beast of The Revenant or even Brave. Instead, it’s very clearly a scrawny white dude in a bear costume. It looks like he dropped into a Party City and said, “I want to look like the Snuggle laundry detergent bear, but my budget is $20.” At this moment—when a bearded man in tighty-whities is being mauled by a corn-syrup covered first-time furry—it’s time for you to get on board of this bonkers parody, or get the fuck out. As for me, I was howling, and hungry for more.
Crutcher and LoCicero co-wrote Cop Chronicles alongside director Mark Potts, and co-stars Samir Forghani, Winston Carter, and Brand Rackley. Though when I spoke with them at the Oxford Film Festival, they confessed this low-budget, free-wheeling comedy is less written and more improvised. That made for a silly spontaneity that gleefully mocks some of the cop-drama genre’s most egregious tropes, including ludicrously long-winded monologues about backstory, a police chief who guzzles Pepto-Bismal between scorning speeches, and loose-cannon interrogation tactics with explosive results. When Higgs and McGraw team up to hunt down a malicious drug dealer (Forghani), they cross paths with an emotionally needy hostage (Carter), an undercover cop with some unexpected dance skills (Rackley), a pants-shitting stoolie, and an Uber driver tirelessly petitioning for more male nudity in movies. (A running gag that strangely doesn’t get the obvious payoff.) But the most eye-catching performance comes from Gina Rodriguez, who cheekily gets the “introducing” title in the opening credits.
You know how in countless cop movies the female lead is basically just a tool to give the male hero feelings? She’ll be kidnapped or killed so that the hero can look stricken, then avenge her with a macho show of brutal violence. She might have a name, but honestly who cares. She was never really a character, just a plot point, and maybe an excuse to get some tits on screen. Well, Cop Chronicles’s most scathing running-gag mocks this sexist convention by pushing it to its loony extreme. Potts casts his most notable actor in the role of McGraw’s fridged love interest. The Jane the Virgin star barely has any lines before she’s blown to bits in a maudlin flashback. Though often referenced, her character won’t get a name, referred to only as “dead wife,” even after she’s resurrected by robot cloning technology. Amid much goofy shenanigans, Cop Chronicle slides in surprisingly sophisticated satire.
Crutcher and LoCicero master straight-faced silliness in scads of scenes where they bellow, battle, or oil up for a strange sting operation. Together, Higgs and McGraw gruffly charming. Think Lethal Weapon’s Riggs and Murtaugh, except deeply stupid. And Rodriguez rolls with this established lunacy, delivering a make-out scene where she’s hilarious by maintaining a blank expression and a wildly flapping tongue as a rejoicing McGraw French-kisses her agape robot-clone mouth. Tongues flick as he cries and she’s a vapid robot. And it goes on for so long that it goes from funny to uncomfortable, to WTF hysterical.
Cop Chronicles: Loose Cannons: The Legend of the Haj-Mirage may be an acquired taste. Constructed on bits and improvisation, it’s rough around the edges, and its jokes are often joyously idiotic. Yet underneath the willfully dumb gags, Cop Chronicles shows a deep love of this genre, awareness of its flaws, and pokes everyone with abandon. If you like Hot Fuzz, Super Troopers or MacGruber, I suspect you’ll relish this unapologetically wacky parody. Once it’s available, pair it with some good friends, and a six-pack for a perfect movie night.
Cop Chronicles: Loose Cannons: The Legend of the Haj-Mirage premiered at the Oxford Film Festival. No distribution details have yet been announced. But in the meantime, you can see this group’s first feature on Hulu. It’s called Spaghettiman, and of course it’s about a superhero who hurls spaghetti.