‘Wrong Cops’ movie review: wrong everything in subversive Quentin Dupieux comedy

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Wrong cops, wrong criminals, wrong everything in Quentin Dupieux’s latest foray into experimental WTF filmmaking, a short & senseless little Reno 911-like riff that seems destined to appeal to no one. It’s cheap, dirty, strange, and downright awkward to sit through. 

But hey, there’s no accounting for taste: I found it hilarious, and can heartily recommend it to like-minded weirdos.

I’ve been a fan of Dupieux (better known, perhaps, as electronic music producer Mr. Oizo) and his strange brand of surrealism, which gained some widespread acclaim with 2010’s festival hit Rubber, an indescribable desert-set journey that (partially, at least) followed around a rubber tire that discovered it had telepathic powers. He followed that up with 2012’s transgressive Wrong, which subverted the typical indie mumblecore expectations. 

Wrong Cops is a spin-off, of sorts, of that previous dog-napping oddity, with three of the principal cast members returning to similar (if not the same) roles: Mark Burnham, Steve Little, and Eric Judor are three of the titular policemen, who are wrong in more ways than one as they bumble their way through a series of day-to-day vignettes. 

A plot description would service nothing. Officer Duke (Burnham) accosts a high school student (played by, of all people, Marilyn Manson) on the street. Rough (Judor) attempts to record some awful electronic music, while Sunshine (Little) is blackmailed with photos from his gay porn past. Drugs are sold packaged in dead rats, women are harassed, officers maced, crime scenes are left unattended to, and a dead body is dumped in the trunk of a car, then forgotten about. 

Wrong Cops is at once more conventional and more off-the-wall than the director’s previous films. The abhorrent behavior of the policemen here – which is what the film contains in nonstop fashion throughout – is both shocking and vaguely believable, at least in a metaphorical sense. While the exact particulars are increasingly bizarre, there is the persistent notion of police doing very bad things.

It’s especially relevant, then, that this film hits cinemas at a time when police misconduct is all over the news. The subversive portrait of police officers that the writer-director paints here can also be viewed as a reflection of (and commentary on) the increasing divide between authority figures and law-abiding citizens in the USA.

Or am I crazy for looking for social commentary here? Maybe it’s just batshit insane David Lynch-esque weirdness. 

The film makes a star (of sorts) out of big, burly Mark Burnham in the central role of Officer Duke. He dominates the screen and steals every scene that he’s in, with that larger-than-life presence that is perversely reflective of our innate perception of police. Cameos include Eric Wareheim (of Tim and Eric fame) as a fellow officer, Ray Wise, and Eric Roberts.

Also memorable is the electronic music that factors throughout Wrong Cops, and builds into one of the film’s greatest comic highlights; director Dupieux composed the original score to the film under his stage name, Mr. Oizo.

This one isn’t for everyone, but more adventurous moviegoers might want to give it a whirl.

Wrong Cops

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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