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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Tracy Morgan

Tracy Morgan could star in a cop movie -- sans the laughs

March 25, 2010 |  5:07 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Everyone seems to have an opinion about whether Tracy Morgan can be a dramatic actor. He's certainly used to shrewd effect on "30 Rock," where as the oblivious, pampered celebrity Tracy Jordan, Tina Fey and the show's writers have figured out how to deploy his skills to memorable effect.

Morg But can the actor actually pull off a part in a more dramatic movie? We may not have to wait long to find out. Sources say Morgan is negotiating to join the cast of a crime drama called "Son of No One" that's scheduled to start shooting in New York next month. It's a supporting part, but given the tone, still a notable move for the comedian-actor. (Morgan is coming on instead of Terrence Howard, who was in talks to join the cast but in the end won't star in the film.)

Morgan has of course just starred in a film about police officers, but "Son" is hardly "Cop Out" -- it's a gritty drama about a cop assigned to the working-class neighborhood where he grew up. Al Pacino and Channing Tatum star, and Dito Montiel, the director of "Fighting' and "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" (and one of the better chroniclers of the streets currently working) is directing; Holly Wiersma, who's behind the upcoming cop-arsonist thriller "Stone," is producing the film, which WME Entertainment helped package and which Nu Image/Millennium Films will finance.

Morgan turns up in the upcoming "Death at a Funeral," a lighter movie. We have a feeling the deaths, and the funerals, will play a little heavier in "Son."

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Tracy Morgan. Credit: Kevin Mazur / WireImage

Can someone please shoot the interracial buddy cop comedy?

February 26, 2010 |  8:41 pm


The interracial buddy crime comedy -- the very subgenre that audiences will be subjected to with Kevin Smith's "Cop Out" this weekend -- has been around for decades. But that doesn't stop filmmakers from adhering fervently to the tropes as though they were handed down at Sinai yesterday.

In approximately this sequence, those rules include:  Two men of different background/race are thrown together by circumstance (and quadrant-minded Hollywood marketing executives). They chafe at and resist each other; in fact, they rub each other so wrong that comedy (and, later, a little bit of drama) ensues. But thanks to a common threat, they finally come to appreciate and help each other. We all feel a little lighter for laughing, and maybe a little elevated to boot, because, hey, if a white cop and a black cop can get along, can't all of us?

The races sometimes change (Asian instead of white, Hispanic in lieu of black); the setup varies. A raunch-minded director who made a great '90s slacker comedy, for reasons understood by no one, decides to come on board. But the rules never change.

Of course just because there's a formula and/or a cynical marketing calculation doesn't mean the form hasn't been executed well. The right chemistry, writing and timing has given us "48 Hrs.," the first few "Lethal Weapon" movies and, if your definition of crime and cops stretches a little, the Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder gem "Silver Streak" (or, if your definition of buddies stretches a little, "Beverly Hills Cop"). With a little bit of dramatic heft and some well-constructed action scenes, many of these movies have worked.

48hrThey just haven't worked anytime in the last 15 years, a period in which the subgenre has spawned the "Rush Hour" franchise, future AFI honoree "Nothing to Lose" (with Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence), the "Miami Vice" remake, and this weekend's "Cop Out." You could argue that Hollywood has been unlucky. Or you could say that every avenue for comedy or action in this format has been explored (forcing filmmakers into a position where the only thing they can up is the silliness level) and filmmakers should just stop looking (this means you, all you people working on the "Beverly Hills Cop" reboot.)

One does wonder how the Kevin Smith movie would have looked if it hadn't been made at a studio, or if David Dobkin had wound up directing it, as some original discussions had it, back when it was called "A Couple of D@$ks." Dobkin directed "Wedding Crashers," so "Cop Out" might have had the freshness and vigor of that movie. Or it might have offered one more reason someone should put this subgenre out of its misery.

--Steven Zeitchik

Top photo: Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis in "Cop Out." Credit: Abbott Genser/Warner Bros.

Seond photo: Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in "48Hrs." Credit: Paramount


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