Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, Robert Kazinsky, Randy Joaquín Cosio, Michael Mosley, John Carroll Lynch
Director: Anne Fletcher
Rating: Two and a half stars
Officer Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) is an idealistic police officer famous in the police force for being ditzy and accident-prone. Seeking to improve, she eagerly grabs what appears to be a routine mission. Escort a former druglord-turned-witness, Felipe Riva, and his fashionista wife Danielle Riva (Sofia Vergara) to the Dallas court. However, it gets complicated thanks to an ambush of gunmen who murder Danielle’s husband and Cooper’s partner, forcing them to go on the run. Worlds apart in personality, the ditzy Cooper and the cynical
Danielle have to learn to trust one another as they escape runaway gunmen and commandeer several vehicles on their wacky road trip. Hot Pursuit is a good example of the “timepass” film. At a mere 85 minutes length, the plot is tight with very little distraction given to subplots and romance. There’s very little time wasted before the film gets to its central pair of Witherspoon and Vergara, whose interactions and friendship is what the film is really about. Hot Pursuit is essentially a feminine version of films such as Rush Hour, that is an action film with an unlikely mismatched pair. She’s a young White Protestant Rookie Cop, she’s a Catholic Latina Trophy Wife; together they fight crime.
Hot Pursuit is a charming comedy and it floats on that charm to the point that its flawed execution and weak gags can be pardoned. One rather wretched scene, an attempt to be edgy with a faux-lesbian kiss is cringe inducing, but the rather funny escape scene that follows more than redeems it. Anne Fletcher, director of films like27 Dresses, The Proposal, does better with this limited and weak material than one could have reasonably expected. The film does suffer from the fallacy of a lot of women-centric films. It gets burdened by shilling a women’s empowerment story by dressing the supporting cast with weak male players so as to make the lead actresses look better. Such special pleading is unnecessary since the leads carry the film well.
Reese Witherspoon has generally been one of the most underrated actresses in Hollywood. The main reason is that her forte is in comedy (Election, Legally Blonde). Of course, she’s won an Oscar for Walk the Line, but her work as a comedian is more impressive. Her performance as Cooper is one of quiet courage. There’s the fact that her character is not as immediately charismatic, endures a lot of mockery on her physical characteristics as well as her gift for physical comedy and willingness to take pratfalls.
At times like these, Reese Witherspoon recalls the great Judy Holliday, another great actress who played blonde ditzes whose warmth and bubbly zeal made you like her no matter what. Sofia Vergara is a good foil. She has appeared on TV shows such as Modern Family, she does very well as Danielle even if the material was weak. Her interactions with Cooper are fairly suspenseful and violent, filled with constant betrayals and mutual distrust. In other words, it’s a lot less dramatic than most films of this kind and there’s never a big dramatic friendship moment, to the extent that one wishes the film didn’t take as conventional a turn as it does in the final section.
As a film of modest ambitions Hot Pursuit is surprisingly entertaining. Yes the jokes and gags get a little repetitive, the plot is pretty formulaic and there is very little action and most of it is uninspired. The same is true of most action films, most of whom lack the solid lead performance that is there in this film.
The writer is programmer, Lightcube Film Society