Cop Secret (Cert 15)

(Distributor: Vertigo Releasing) Running Time: 100 minutes approx.

Release Date – May 23rd

The life of a cop according to cinema is one of testosterone, swagger, and breaking the rules with the same fervour they go after the criminal rule breakers! Love and romance is collateral damage where protecting the law comes first, either a lost opportunity or a quick dalliance here and there. Forgive me dear female readers but being a movie cop is man’s world!

Reyjavik based police officer Bussi (Auðunn Blöndal) is a national hero for his standing as the top cop in the city, getting results despite his maverick and destructive ways. He has the respect and kudos of everyone, except maybe his rule-abiding partner Klemenz (Sverrir Þór Sverrisson). Meanwhile, in the neighbouring town of Gardabaer, the man of the hour there is Hörđur Bess (Egill Einarsson), a threat to Bussi’s crown.

Since Klemenz refuses to work with Bussi anymore, police chief Thordergur (Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir) brings Hörđur in as Bussi’s new partner as a number of bank robberies occur in the capital where the thieves don’t steal any money. Bussi isn’t happy, partly because he likes to have the glory to himself but also because he thinks he might be falling for pansexual Hörđur!

You know Hollywood doesn’t have the guts or the wit to make a buddy cop thriller (or even a comedy) with gay lead protagonists and keep it classy which is why we defer to Iceland to do it for them. Cop Secret uses this premise as a fulcrum around which every single cliché in the genre is mocked to within an inch of its life, but not in the same zany style as Airplane! or as manic Hot Fuzz.

Perhaps the best surprise about this hilarious, acutely acerbic romp is that director and co-writer Hannes Þór Halldórsson is a former Iceland national team football goalkeeper, one of the more unusual job changes I can think of. It also explains a vital plot point of a Women’s football match between Iceland and England – and if you don’t want to know the result, don’t watch this film.

Except you should watch it if you want a good laugh that also doubles a decent crime thriller with its tongue firmly in its cheek whilst not playing it for laughs, making for a fun, action packed slice of satire. Some have noted that originality is at a premium here but that is the exact point, something made clear from the opening scene of Bussi and Klemenz tearing up the city in a typically wild car chase.

What makes this so funny is Bussi’s macho tenacity and flagrant disregard for rules and  human safety being pointed out by a terrified Klemenz – whose toddler son is in the back as they were on their way to pre-school – only to be shot down with the pithy retort of “We’re cops!” from Bussi as justification. This is a running gag among many that is taken to an absurdly destructive limit and our hero still keeps his job because he’s a cop and this is the movies.

Central to the forming of the super cop pairing of Bussi and Hörđur is Rikki Ferrari (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson), a former modelling partner of Hörđur’s turned dangerous sociopath after suffering career-ending burns in a car crash. The joke is Rikki speaks English as all movie villains are British, despite everyone else speaking Icelandic. He is also very unreasonable, shooting his crew members for the slightest indiscretion, or kidnapping a radio DJ inadvertently giving away his plans on air in an amusing meta-gag.

In actual fact, the scam they are pulling is quite ingenious in not actually robbing banks, doing something covertly sinister via hi-tech means. I just hope no real criminals see this and feel inspired to copy it. And for the record, Rikki’s number 1 is a leather clad biker babe, Stefanía (Vivian Ólafsdóttir) – not just another hackneyed trope but also a conduit for the gay twist of the cop protagonists.

Depending of course, if you see it as a twist or long overdue representation, although this being a comedy might have some apprehension regarding the intentions behind this. To assuage those fears, there is no homophobic language used and the whole approach to the subject is rather positive, exemplified by Hörđur exclaiming “It’s 2021! Nobody gives a s**t!” and they don’t. The dynamic is carefully constructed in that superficially it is playing to type but leaves room for ambiguity and misdirection

Bussi is the Jason Statham type hard man – scruffy attire, boozy breakfasts, and trigger happy, whilst in a moribund relationship with Lilja Íris (Júlíana Sara Gunnarsdóttir). In contrast, Hörđur is urbane, lives in a plush apartment, and is open about his sexuality. He can read Bussi like a book but doesn’t force anything out of him, whilst Bussi fights any urges he has out of confusion.

Good news for anyone in the LGBTQ community fearing the worst, and also for those who are here for the laughs and the action as this storyline doesn’t intrude on them at all. This may not have a Hollywood budget but the scale is huge and it feels like a big deal, which Halldórsson handles very well for a first time director, going all out with the fight, car chases, and explosions, and of course the big football match.

More importantly, the script is full of stock lines and phrases of the crime thriller genre yet uses them in a way that they become funny through the serious delivery of the cast even without the clandestine joke thrown in. Auðunn Blöndal and Egill Einarsson create a fantastic chemistry as Bussi and Hörđur respectively, buttressed by great support turns from Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson.

Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Cop Secret is a stealthily smart parody hiding beneath an amiable “spot the references” exterior. Fast, furious, and very funny, this is a modern, if not always subtle, deconstruction of masculinity in genre cinema.

Rating – ****

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