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Review: Hot Pursuit (2015)

Hot Pursuit (2015)

Directed by: Anne Fletcher

Premise: An uptight police officer (Reese Witherspoon) escorts a DEA informant (Sofia Vergara) to court while being pursued by crooked cops and criminal henchmen.

What Works: Hot Pursuit mixes action and comedy. While it does not do very much right, the filmmakers do manage to merge the slapstick and the violence. Unlike Paul Feig’s 2013 cop comedy The Heat, the action and humor of Hot Pursuit tend to complement each other and the violence has the right tone for the kind of movie this is intended to be.

What Doesn’t: Hot Pursuit is one of those comedies in which the funniest part of the movie is the montage of outtakes that play over the end credits. That’s typically the sign of a movie that was more fun to make than it is to watch and Hot Pursuit is no fun at all. The story of Hot Pursuit is familiar from a lot of other movies like 3:10 to Yuma, The Defiant Ones, Midnight Run, and 16 Blocks, in which a lawman must escort a criminal from point-A to point-B while being pursued by the bad guys. Hot Pursuit takes a comedic approach to that formula but it follows the boiler plate without adding anything interesting or creative. For that matter, the filmmakers of Hot Pursuit don’t even manage to do this overused formula with any basic competence. The point of an odd couple story like this is for characters who otherwise wouldn’t have anything to do with each other to work cooperatively and overcome their differences in order to achieve a common goal. In the process they usually arrive at some sort of mutual respect. Hot Pursuit fails at that modest storytelling objective. The movie begins with the characters needing to get to a courthouse but there is no sense of urgency and at some point the filmmakers drop that goal altogether, leaving the movie flailing with no reason to exist. The failure of Hot Pursuit is a result of a script that is a mess. Comedies usually enjoy relaxed expectations in regard to plot and internal logic; that anarchic quality is part of what makes them fun. But even very silly movies like Airplane! and Duck Soup have a coherent story; as wacky as they get, everything in those movies makes sense. Even the most basic knock-knock joke is a story; it has a setup and a payoff. Hot Pursuit is a series of random events that don’t relate to one another. The movie begins with a cop assigned to escort an informant but they are ambushed by assassins. From there every scene in the movie is disconnected from the others. A lot of sequences in this movie could be rearranged in any order without making a difference. The bad guys often appear for no reason; there is no way for the villains to know where these women are but they show up anyway so that the movie can insert an action sequence and push the characters to the next arbitrary setting. The action set pieces are worthless. They aren’t executed with any style and they aren’t very exciting nor do they advance the characters or the story. There are plot twists but they are the worst kind of reversals – the kind that actually contradict what happened earlier and unwind the precious little about this movie that made any sense. Most disappointing about Hot Pursuit is its performances. Sofia Vergara is cast as the informant and like her role on the television sitcom Modern Family she plays a stereotypical Latin American woman who alternates between sultry and shrill. Vergara is a limited actress and so her performance is what’s expected. On the other hand, Reese Witherspoon is slumming it here. The movie is beneath her and it shows. Her Texas accent fades in and out and a lot of the time it seems less like she’s playing a character in a feature film and more like she’s trapped in an overextended Saturday Night Live skit. 

Bottom Line: Hot Pursuit is one of those movies that feels like it was made just for the sake of giving its name actors a job and creating content for movie theaters with no regard for what that content would look like. It’s a cynical movie that nears Adam Sandler levels of laziness.

Episode: #542 (May 17, 2015)