Bon Cop, Bad Cop

It’s one of my unwritten rules that if you’re from Canada, you should see, or praise, Canadian films. If I’m asked what I thought about a particular Canadian film I fall back on the simple, patriotic response: “I liked it. It was Canadian.” Our industry can’t compare to Hollywood efforts, mainly because we can’t afford it (The most expensive Canadian film is Passchendaele with a $20 million budget, or roughly the same budget as a small independent film). And because of this, any Canadian film that manages to get produced and hit theatres deserves to be modestly praised for just existing at all.

So what did I think about Bon Cop, Bad Cop? I liked it. It was Canadian. With that out of the way, time to criticize it.

Had I not seen Pontypool before seeing Bon Cop, Bad Cop, I may have enjoyed it more. It’s typical thriller fare – a serial killer is running around offing citizens with connections to the NHL and two detectives (one from Ontario, the other from Quebec) are reluctantly partnered together and ordered to solve the case. It’s got decent production values, two solid leads in Colm Feore and Patrick Huard (one guess who plays the Quebecois detective), bullets being fired and things blowing up real good. But unlike Pontypool, it’s government-required “Canadian-ness” is ham-fisted and awkwardly shoehorned in.

The film revolves around a serial killer obsessed with hockey and a major subplot that a Canadian team (here called the Fleur-de-Lys rather than the Habs) is going to be sold to the States. The horror. The serial killer’s first victim is dropped from a helicopter onto the sign marking the border between Ontario and Quebec. Yes, dropped from a helicopter. It’s a rather complicated gesture to kill a man, hire a helicopter for an afternoon, strap the dead body in the chair next to you, and then hover thirty feet off the ground as you gingerly toss the body out the side, making sure that it will perfectly land in two police jurisdictions, doubling the detectives and cops chasing after you. But hey, it’s an overly complicated and awkward way to set the film in Ontario and Quebec, so why not?

The characters make a pact early on: when they’re in Quebec, they speak French, and when they’re in Ontario, they speak English. Ugh. While it’s cool that the film is bilingual, it’s bilingual for the sake of being bilingual. Why do these two detectives create this arbitrary rule? The film’s argument is that it’s macho posturing – the Quebecois detective wants to prove that he rules the roost by speaking his language in his province, and vice versa with the Ontario detective. In reality, it plays off like: “Well, we need 50% Canadian content, so we’re going to split the movie into two halves – the first will be the French-speaking part and the second will be the English-speaking part.” Pontypool did this so much better by making the inclusion of another language an integral plot point – speaking French was a way of side-stepping the virus that had infected the English language.

Also, having hockey as the major motivation for a serial killer is beyond inane. Sure, the actors can look at the camera and wink (“Canadians really love their hockey. In fact, they’d be willing to kill for it.”), but it seems to be one of the worst explanations of a film’s serial killer in recent memory.

The movie’s fun, admittedly, but the forced “Canadian-ness” and dumb antagonist can make it more irritating than enjoyable. If only Pontypool was made before it, the producers could have taken some pointers how to add Canadian content that accentuates the film rather than takes away from it.

C+

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