Title: Hot Pursuit
Director: Anne Fletcher
Major Players: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, Robert Kazinsky
Out Of Five: 1.5
When the end credits on a comedy are packed with out-takes, it’s never a good sign. More of an admission that the film wasn’t funny and this is a last ditch attempt to get you to leave the cinema laughing. Perhaps it’ll improve your memory of the film. In the case of Hot Pursuit, it won’t. Even if a couple of the out-takes are actually funnier than the entire film put together.
Agent Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) is a straight cop, playing it so by the book that you’d think she wrote it. Her first proper job in the field is to safely escort Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergara) to court. She’s the wife of the member of a drugs gang and her husband is going to testify against his drug lord boss. It’s going to be a long trip, but turns out to be even longer when gunmen kill him and come after the two women. So they go on the run, not just to escape them but some crooked cops as well.
This is a film that fancies itself as all kinds of things: a variation on the Thelma and Louise theme, a female buddy movie. Oh, yes, and a comedy. Let’s tackle that. It’s nowhere near funny enough. There’s the occasional moment when it raises a smile – there’s a Speed parody involving a coach full of elderly people which is quite amusing – and you start to warm just a little towards it. And then it comes over all crass again and you switch off.
Being crass is bad enough, but it’s also borderline offensive if you happen to be a woman. There’s gags about the menopause, repeated ones about menstruation and cliché heaped upon cliché about Witherspoon’s lack of height and Vergara’s breasts. The attempts at humour are terrible, but what makes them seriously depressing is that Hot Pursuit is directed by a woman. Not that you’d ever think it, given the sexist tone.
And it makes it even harder to understand why Witherspoon is also credited as the film’s producer, especially when you consider some of the strong women she’s portrayed in the past, most recently in Wild. One of those out-takes at the end comes from her: she fluffs a line and mutters under her breath, not without a large helping of irony, “And I was giving the performance of a lifetime.” She knows she’s making a turkey and she’s trying to make the best of it. As is Vergara, so the two do the only thing they can under the circumstances – over-act to cover up its short comings. But there’s too many and it doesn’t work. In fact, Vergara hams it up so much that her Mexican diva is so outlandish it’s straight out of a cartoon. She spends the first part of the film in a skin tight white dress that, despite her climbing out of a window and landing in the dirt, remains completely pristine. I know it did because watching it to see if it got dirty was a welcome distraction from the rest of the film.
The Thelma and Louise parallel is painfully obvious and, just in case we haven’t picked it up, it continues with the arrival of Randy (Robert Kazinsky), who the women discover when they steal his truck. He’s asleep in the back. And if you’re thinking he looks familiar, he was in EastEnders for three years. He could also earn a few bob on the side as a Damian Lewis lookalike if he felt the need. His role here is a pale imitation of the Brad Pitt one. And he’s no Pitt.
Hot Pursuit is so criminally bad they should lock it up and throw away the key. It doesn’t work as a comedy, a chase movie, an action movie – or any kind of movie. It’s derivative, tepid and left me completely cold. Pursue it? I wouldn’t follow it into the ladies!
Hot Pursuit is released in cinemas on Friday, 31 July and is reviewed on Talking Pictures.