Director: Anne Fletcher
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Sofía Vergara, John Carroll Lynch, Matthew Del Negro & Michael Mosley
Running Time: 87 minutes
Release Date: July 31st
From the opening strains of a hacked-up, karaoked version of Tom Petty’s ‘American Girl’, you can tell Hot Pursuit isn’t going to be easy. Adopting the prisoner and captor road movie that was so expertly done in Midnight Run, and has lately made for some of the best Game of Thrones‘ partnerships, Hot Pursuit teams a shrill, stuck-up jobsworth cop with a shrill, loud-mouth wife of a Colombian drug dealer.
Cooper (Witherspoon) is a San Antonio Police Department cop, relegated to the evidence desk after shooting a minor with a taser who had called ‘shotgun’, rather than actually wielded one — you can see the jokes come pretty thick and fast. Her captain gives her the role of accompanying a detective bringing two informants on a drug cartel leader because apparently a woman needs to accompany another woman. A shootout at the house leaves everyone dead except for Cooper and her charge Daniella (Vergara) who have to make the not-so-long trip to Dallas.
Between director Anne Fletcher (The Proposal) and writers John Quaintance (Joey) and David Feeney (2 Broke Girls/New Girl), Hot Pursuit struggles to barely illicit a smile in its ninety minute running time. They’ve made their leads almost entirely without merit. An opening credit montage shows Cooper growing up in the back of her dad’s cruiser, learning call signs and helping tackle crime, but as a grown up, she’s entirely useless, as fastadious to her incident report log and by-the-book as Nicholas Angel in Hot Fuzz but without even a smidge of the competency. Her dedication to the force has made her undateable so of course meeting free-spirit Daniella leads her to wearing a summer dress, and a laboured and uncomfortable lesbian encounter, and taking cocaine (cause you know, she’s Colombian). It’s trite and lazy stereotypes at their worst.
Which is a shame, because as bad as the material is, Witherspoon throws herself into entirely. She’s naturally a great comedic actor, one whose natural energy and exuberance is second only to Amy Poehler. In fact, Cooper bares quite a resemblance to that season 1 Leslie Knope, herself a Michael Scott facsimile, that was scrubbed from all memory and replaced with the bottle rocket of effervescence we all now know and love. She has a habit of falling into comedies that Katherine Heigl might even pass on, when she really needs to be setting up camp with Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy.
Vergara tends to have one note, one ear-piercing, Scanners’ head-bursting note. Hot Pursuit sees it at its most amplified, she’s not so much playing a character but the caricature of Sofía Vergara. Jon Ronson recently wrote about Muslim-American actors consistently being typecast in roles as terrorists, for Vergara it’s hard to tell whether her repetitive one-dimensionality is down to the laziness of those who cast her or her acceptance of her own limitations.
Hot Pursuit ends on the comedy staple of a gag reel, bloopers to send you home with one last laugh, but even that doesn’t hit home, only pulling back the curtain on how much of a drag this looked to make. At least you’ll know you’re not the only one.