Director: Dax Shepard
Writers: Rick Rosner (based on the television series created by), Dax Shepard
Stars: Michael Peña, Dax Shepard, Vincent D’Onofrio
Dax Shepard’s completely unnecessary remake of the 70s, buddy cop show, ChiPs is a rather underwhelming affair. Admittedly though, I’ve never actually watched the original series, being born in 1989, it was way before my time and I’ve honestly never seen the point of these sort of remakes. The Nice Guys (a film I really enjoyed incidentally) proved last year that there is still some love to be had for the buddy cop genre which in general has grown somewhat stale and it was predominantly for this reason that I gave ChiPs a chance.
Right, so I’m going to get my first major gripe with this film out in the open right away. I’ll not beat about the bush. The story is atrociously bad and simplistic. It’s a light hearted, action/comedy film, I get that, and I wasn’t expect any grandiosity in that department, but still, come on man. I’ll give Shepard some plaudits, as he must have been a busy boy during the production of this, acting as director, writer and one of the leading two protagonists in the film. His characters autistic like awkwardness was actually one of the few things I enjoyed. The flak for the story and some of the corny jokes that fell flat are on him though and he can’t be escaping the criticism as such.
The story is basically centred around an investigation into police corruption within the Californian Highway Patrol. It becomes clear that corruption is rife after an armed robbery leads to the death of an officer and this throws an undercover FBI agent into the fray. Officer Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Michael Peña) is said FBI agent and he’s partnered with former motorcross champion John Baker (Dan Shepherd), a man riddled with health problems from his previous career and a complete novice (and liability) at the job. The two form a gradual bromance as they try to work together and bring down the corrupt Ray Kurtz (Vincent D’Onofrio), the criminally underused main villain of the film.
Our leading two are polar opposites, not an uncommon situation in mismatched buddy films, and both have their personal problems, which in a way, helps to bring them together. Ponch is reckless, incredibly cocky, something of a sex addict with a predisposition for sexting and inappropriately face timing his bosses; whilst Baker is a lanky mass of awkwardness, more analytical in his methods (but still a liability) and has a flagging marriage to his cheating, air headed wife that has left him sleeping in the guest house and in complete denial. The vast majority of the film focuses on Ponch and Baker with little to zero time being spent on developing Kurtz or even explaining the reasoning behind his rogue groups actions.
The story, as mentioned earlier, is chronic. Ponch is supposed to be an undercover FBI agent and yet thinks it’s cool to run around with a non-issue uniform and a modified Ducati bike with Baker. This creates no suspicion apparently in any of the others minds, there’s a brief comment from Ava Perez (Rosa Salazar) and then the film just goes with it. The jokes too are a little lame. The Pistorius one in particular was in bad taste, whilst the running gags about homophobia and ‘eating ass’ were about as funny as getting a kick to the groin. But look, I’m not going to lie and say it was completely unfunny and I didn’t laugh at any point. I did, especially at some of Bakers misfortunes and antics.
Performance wise, Michael Peña must have came close to phoning it in here. He’s a better actor than this and the handful of very decent films he’s had supporting roles in prior to this will attest to that. He did all right, his performance wasn’t offensive and that’s about all I can say. Shepherd, as I mentioned previously, was one of my few positives in this film. I thought he did very well in a project he was clearly positive about considering he wrote and directed it too. He brought some laughs. D’Onofrio was just so underused in this film. What were they thinking? His character came off in the end as shallow, underdeveloped and just not a serious threat when the shit hit the fan in the final act showdown. The humorous manner of his death summed this up.
At this stage, I’m actually running out of things to talk about. There was an attempt a twist involving one of Ponch’s love interests in the film that was the definition of telegraphed. One major positive that I’ll all but end on is the camera work. I loved the helmet cams used in some of the actions sequences. Very cool looking and it worked nicely. Overall though, I can’t be recommending a film for a bloody helmet cam and this film really doesn’t offer anything else of real substance to make it a viable recommendation for anybody. Unless you’re really into the highway patrol and love motorbikes, in which case, dive in.