A film review by Craig J. Koban September 5, 2015



2015, R, 86 mins.


Reese Witherspoon as Cooper  /  Sofía Vergara as Daniella  /  Michael Mosley as Dixon  /  John Carroll Lynch as Captain Emmett  /  Richard T. Jones as Det Jackson

Directed by Anne Fletcher  /  Written  by John Quaintance and David Feeney

HOT PURSUIT is so criminally awful in so many incalculable ways that I simply lost mental track as I left the screening and ventured home.  

On one modest positive note, the makers here are trying to establish a female-centric footmark in a largely male dominated “buddy cop” movie genre.  I'll give this film points for that endeavor, which is no easy feat in this cinematic day and age.  Unfortunately, swapping out the genders in this film hardly makes much of a difference, seeing as HOT PURSUIT is relentlessly bereft of laughs, almost oozing contemptuous comedic desperation all throughout its agonizing – but mercifully brief – 86 minutes.  Perhaps most befuddling is how Reese Witherspoon followed up her remarkable Oscar nominated work in WILD to appear in such amateurish drivel...it's frankly embarrassing. 

Every high profile Academy Award nominee has a NORBIT in their closet, and HOT PURSUIT is certainly Witherspoon’s NORBIT.  She channels what morsel of good will and cheer here to play Rose Cooper, a San Antonio police officer that has a rather large heart and noble intentions, but past indiscretions in the field have left her delegated to being stuck as a clerk in the evidence room (as for the indiscretion in question...she accidentally tasered the mayor’s son).  All Cooper aspires to is a second chance to prove her relative worth in the field, but her reputation for foolish mistakes stymies her at every attempt.  Her luck changes when Captain Emmett (John Carroll Lynch) decides to assign Cooper with a special escort mission to take Daniella (Sofia Vergara) to Dallas so that she can testify against a vile and dangerous drug kingpin, Cortez (Joaquin Cosio).  Predictably, the road trip doesn’t start off particularly well, leaving Cooper and Daniella to essentially go on the run after some assassins make their lives miserable.  Wacky would-be hilarious hijinks ensue…all being built up on overused genre troupes.  Sigh.  Yawn. 



HOT PURSUIT, simply put, looks like a B-grade production on most tangible levels.  The film was directed by Anne Fletcher, whose past filmmaking resume sure leaves a lot to be desired (27 DRESSES, THE PROPOSAL, and THE GUILT TRIP were all varying degrees of mediocre).  Nothing really about this production screams out “theatrical feature!”  It’s rather shabbily constructed, insipidly shot, lazily edited, and never once generates even a modest bit of intensity from its lackluster action scenes.  Everything presented in this film just listlessly sits on the screen.  HOT PURSUIT, beyond its mournfully uninspiring aesthetic, also has no real clue what type of film it’s trying to be.  Buddy cop film?  Action comedy?  Chick flick?  A screwball romp?  Fletcher sort of lazily throws everything up at the screen and hopes that it will somehow miraculously stick.  Perhaps the most damning problem with the film is that it simply feels like it was made of regurgitated extra pieces of countless other similar genre films…and better ones at that. 

Witherspoon has been riotously amusing in past films…when given the proper opportunity to do just that.  Yet, Fletcher seems positively indifferent – or maybe just plain ol’ blind – as to how to properly harness the actress’ unique skill set.  Witherspoon is not so much playing a flesh and blood human being here as she is playing a shrill and obnoxious southern law stereotype that becomes more distracting by the minute (oddly enough, for an actress that’s from the south, her accent in the film feels woefully and hyperactively forced and strained).  Vergara is also capable of tickling funny bones (as on display in TV’s MODERN FAMILY), but Daniella here has such a toxically irritating personality in the film that you have to wonder why any human being would find it worthwhile to be in her presence for more than a few minutes.  Vergara also plays up to many overused Latino female clichés here like it was going completely out of style.  Between Witherspoon’s irritatingly jumpy gung ho/super cop wanna-be and Vergara’s equally dislikeable hot headed motormouth, I was left puzzled as to why I should really care for either of these women and their plight, 

I guess that the only possibly saving grace in the film would be its humor, but HOT PURSUIT fumbles the ball so badly in this department that it inspires more incredulous headshaking than chuckles.  Watching Witherspoon and Vergara engage in pathetic cookie cutter dialogue is off-putting enough, but then the film piles on scene after scene of painfully artificial set pieces (a scene in a gas station bathroom and an escape through a low hanging window comes to mind) that do very little beyond inspiring audience lethargy.  Some moments are just disgusting, like one involving Cooper and Daniella trying to convince a couple of suspected assassins to give them a bathroom break…by going into nauseatingly endless detail about their menstrual cycles.  The scene goes on for what seems like an unholy eternity.  I just wanted to assume the fetal position and cry in my theater seat by this point. 

I'm not sure what else I could possible say to relay why you should avoid this movie like the plague.  HOT PURSUIT is so methodically and mechanically on autopilot in overall approach that it makes one want to collective check the pulses of the people in front of and behind the camera to ensure that they were indeed alive during the production.  There’s almost no genuine comedic creative on display here; the film is a festering dead zone in terms of laughs, made all the more uncomfortable considering that you have to witness one of the finer actresses of her generation in Witherspoon make a fool out of herself for an hour and a half.  HOT PURSUIT never even elevates itself above the simplistic moniker of low-rent cornball fun.  The only thing that was not present during my screening of this film was a remote control with a MUTE button…or an option to just turn the film off and call it a day.  Very few films featuring such respected talent fall with such an immediate thud right out of the gate as much as HOT PURSUIT.

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