Outside of his harrowing slow burn neo-noir “Narc,” the 2002 standout in his filmography he’s still yet to top, every Joe Carnahan movie in his twenty-plus years as a director delivers varying shades of the same shtick. He has a singular gift for self-aware, macho moviemaking typified by gonzo violence, acidic humor, and inventive storytelling, but rarely seems to punch above his weight anymore, having accepted his place as a reliable purveyor of meat and potatoes Dudes Rock cinema. But where underrated gems like 2010’s “The A-Team” and this year’s “Boss Level” are carried by a certain undeniable mirth at play, his latest film “Copshop” feels like autopilot at its worst, a watchable crime thriller as inoffensive as it is unmemorable.
All the pieces are there for something special: the mano a mano chemistry between two grizzled favorites in Frank Grillo and Gerard Butler, a confined single location from which to mine claustrophobic suspense, and a strong premise full of potential. Unfortunately, in execution, “Copshop” never gets into second gear. A film like this could feel like a home run if it just delivered the bare minimum in an efficient and entertaining manner, but the finished product can’t even clear that low bar.