Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the Locarno International Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit pardolive.ch and follow the Locarno International Film Festival on Twitter at @FilmFestLocarno.
From the mind that brought us a runaway maniac tire and a cult of do-good dognappers come the titular antiheroes of Wrong Cops, the conduit to Quentin Dupieux’s latest absurdist assault on the senses. This is a filmmaker whose fans arrive with a very particular picture in mind, and whose newcomer viewers emerge either whooping with delight or wide-eyed with fright. His is a unique cinema indeed, unforgiving in its unconventionality; the philosophy of “no reason”, outlined in an opening spiel by one of the many meta-referential characters of Dupieux’s 2010 breakthrough Rubber, remains very much the dominant force within the world Dupieux presents. There is no reason to his madness, only a mad method of conviction so steely it can only be admired.
From the mind that brought us a runaway maniac tire and a cult of do-good dognappers come the titular antiheroes of Wrong Cops, the conduit to Quentin Dupieux’s latest absurdist assault on the senses.
To admire Dupieux is easy; to appreciate him and the nuances of his style is a good deal less so. There’s an insular sensibility at play in his movies, an atmosphere of exclusivity that helps foster the cult hysteria that surrounds each new release. Wrong Cops is as clear an example of this as there could be, its unapologetic committal to the director’s eccentric approach restricting its scope solely and solidly to fans. Less a narrative as such than an interlaced sequence of sketches, the film’s focus on cops acting wrongly—as well as corroborating the title—takes giddy delight in seeing the keepers of the peace in situations as silly as trying to broach a record deal, bribing a colleague with long-buried gay porn, and lugging a dying man all about town.
It’s certain that those frustrated by Rubber or Wrong will have no time for Wrong Cops; what’s surprising is how many extant Dupieux fans might find themselves brought to see his work from the other side. This latest effort is his weakest by some stretch, hampered from the get-go by the regrettable fact that it just isn’t very funny. What humour there is to be had in the premise itself, and the impropriety it promises, is fast buried beneath an indulgent heap of overbearing jokes as obnoxiously odd as they are all-but guaranteed to miss the mark. There’s a point where one cop, arriving home to find his wife and daughter immersed in Rubber on TV, comments on how great it looks. Such a tongue-in-cheek moment of satirical self-promotion is entirely at odds with the rest of the movie’s self-adoration. Dupieux seems overly fond of his own approach; the resulting film, so cocksure in its comedy, plays only like self-parody.
Wrong, by contrast, used its playful absurdism to surprisingly emotionally-resonant effect, employing surrealism to explore the minute oddities of the ordinary world, and finding a touching little story to tell in the process.
Rubber’s self-referential genre concerns catapulted it immediately into the annals of cinematic postmodernism, yet such was the extent of Dupieux’s tendency to turn his camera back upon himself that it tended here and there to come uncomfortably close to his own backside. Wrong, by contrast, used its playful absurdism to surprisingly emotionally-resonant effect, employing surrealism to explore the minute oddities of the ordinary world, and finding a touching little story to tell in the process. Aggressively oddball as Dupieux’s approach may have been, it was in both cases an abstract means to an earned end. Wrong Cops is not: here we have a movie that wants only to baffle and bemuse, to use the simplistic conceit of law acting unlawfully to steal half-shocked titters from bewildered beholders.
There’s an argument to be made, undoubtedly, for the movie’s satirical aspirations: Dupieux’s work is all about paring back the picture we have of the world with a smile on his face, and the sight of authority compromised is not without its share of seriousness. But it’s a modicum of meaning at best, a straw grasped by a mind desperate to find some reprise from the endlessly dull deadpan pantomime unfolding onscreen. Wrong Cops adopts the philosophy of no reason to the point where it has none itself: it’s not about anything, and its handful of effective gags can’t do much to secure a reason for us to care.
[notification type=”star”]47/100 ~ BAD. Wrong Cops adopts the philosophy of no reason to the point where it has none itself.[/notification]