Wrong Cops: Locarno Review

"Wrong Cops"
Don’t try this at home (or in the cinema).

French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux's latest, co-starring Marilyn Manson, follows several policemen who live in a crime-free world in which they are the only criminals.

LOCARNO -- Law enforcement officers are the ones committing the crimes in Wrong Cops, another absurd and more-weird-than-funny feature of French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux after his killer-tire movie Rubber and animal-telepathy story Wrong.

In a city that looks like contemporary L.A. but without any crime, the bored-out-of-their-minds police officers fill their time selling drugs, blackmailing former porn stars or using their guns to get girls to undress. This all plays out with a misplaced deadpan seriousness -- think how funny a John Waters-esque take on this material could have been -- and with jokes that fall flat so often, the film’s cardiograph flatlines before the first five minutes are over. Cops never shows much sign of a heartbeat after that, as the writer-director desperately piles on supposedly funny insults addressed at women, gays, transsexuals, disabled people and practically all other minorities except for untalented hack directors.

Dupieux’ dubious status as a cult filmmaker will ensure festival visibility, starting with Cannes and Sundance, where parts of Wrong Cops were shown as shorts before finally being assembled into the feature-length version that premiered at Locarno. The presence of Marilyn Manson as a shy, baseball cap-wearing teenager (!) who supposedly tries to sneak a peak at a cop’s junk (!!), will surely be featured in marketing materials, though, like the rest of the film, the stunt casting’s more bizarre than fully thought through or actually funny.

The nonsensical plot fans out from the small, parallel stories of two incompetent and cringe-worthy cops: Duke (Mark Burnham, who already played a cop in Wrong) and Renato (Eric Wareheim), who sell marijuana to kids packaged in rats or use their firearms to get girls to show them their boobs, respectively. When Duke, after taking home supposedly peaking teen David Dolores Frank (Manson), accidentally shoots a neighbor (Daniel Quinn), he subsequently hides the bleeding victim in his car. His suggestion that Sunshine (Steve Little), one of his cannabis-smoking clients, settle all that he owes Duke by burying the half-dead man, leads to all sorts of barely connected filler material.

A standout, in the negative sense, is a ridiculously padded out subplot involving Sunshine’s gay-porn past that Renato’s Barbie-doll partner, officer Shirley (Arden Myrin), gets wind of after Sunshine’s found a huge bag of dollars buried in his garden -- yeah, it’s that kind of movie -- and Shirley decides to blackmail him. The resulting showdown is not only a disappointment for the characters but also for the viewers (or, at least those that haven't walked out by this point).

The film’s single chuckle-inducing scene finds the half-dead neighbor and another cop, the weirdly-accented, leather eye patch-wearing Rough (French actor and Dupieux regular Eric Judor), at the office of a big-shot music producer. The mogul, much like the audience, can’t believe he’s got an actual cop with musical aspirations and half-dead man in front of him and assumes it must be part of a Lady Gaga-meets-Village People act.   

Actors are in scenery-chewing caricature-mode throughout, and like in Dupieux’s other efforts, music plays a big role, which is hardly a surprise given the director’s other career as electronic musician Mr. Oizo. But the fact the multi-hyphenate handles not only directorial, screenwriting and music duties but was also responsible for the film’s cinematography and editing -- the latter overdosing on freeze-frames for an old-fashioned quickie feel -- clearly suggests there’s a critical lack of distance in his work that hinders rather than facilitates his, for lack of a better word, inimitable vision.

Venue: Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande)

Production companies: Realitism Films, Rubber Films
Cast: Mark Burnham, Eric Judor, Steve Little, Marilyn Manson, Grace Zabriskie, Arden Myrin, Eric Wareheim, Isabella Palmieri, Eric Roberts, Daniel Quinn
Director-screenwriter: Quentin Dupieux
Producers: Gregory Bernard, Diane Jassem, Josef Lieck
Director of photography: Quentin Dupieux
Production designer: Joan Le Boru
Music: Mr. Oizo
Costume designer: Jamie Redwood
Editor: Quentin Dupieux
Sales: Le Pacte
No rating, 81 minutes.