OVERHEARD at The Murciélago Theatre of Late Night Bizarreness :
Caffeinated verbal riffage and mangled metaphors from that weirdo in the back row at the midnight show.
James Woods is an American pop culture icon, as quintessential as a hotdog with all the fixings at a baseball game, as cinematically essential as the kick-in-the-testicles gag. He is to acting, what AC/DC is to popular music, straightforward 4/4 3 chord dead horse rock n roll that continues to inexplicably appeal to millions throughout the ages. Like AC/DC, James Woods, the actor, is what you see is what you get:
Yet, like AC/DC, James Woods, the actor, can play both sides of the law, as comfortable in a stadium rally as he is in a sleazy biker bar, cleaning up for the mob, or cleaning up the streets. Playing to the ladies, or playing hero at left field, James Woods does quirky, funny, mean, craggy, dangerous, sexy, humble, bastard, horny, clueless, wise, fearful, fearless, hero, villain, gravitas and pathos; all in the time it takes him to lift an eyebrow, shoot a perp and spill a cup of coffee in his lap.
None more so is this strangely alluring dichotomy of talent evident than in one of his early roles, one some call his breakout performance, in the terribly impolite cop drama conveniently titled Cop.
Despite a flimsy paint-by-numbers plot that defies both the laws of corny coincidence and blind stupid luck, James Woods, the actor, is delightful as a bumbling LA detective who thinks he’s Dirty Harry’s batman, but comes off stumbling along like the bastard child of Inspector Closseau and Harvey Keital’s Bad Lieutenant. The real genius at work here is that he plays it so straight, so filled with grittiness and profanity; it is nothing short of iconic. Likeable, but dangerous, James Woods’ Cop is someone a nice girl can take home to meet the parents, yet might just punch dad in the face and insult mom’s cooking. Hell, he’ll probably end up shagging both mom and daughter on the couch, while dad offers him a large glass of his 12 year old scotch.
The film itself wears its late 1980s timeframe well, its violence, sex and social politics proudly politically incorrect, bloody and so devoid of responsibility, it makes the Lethal Weapon films look like an episode of Teletubbies. Cop’s final reel, a clunkingly executed klepto-homage to Harry Callaghan’s confrontation with Scorpio from the first Dirty Harry movie, proudly nails Cop’s inconsequential colours to the post, cements its B-grade cult classic status, and indeed, sums up the talent of, the fascination with and the rebellious attraction to James Woods, the actor.
“the good news is I am a cop. The bad news is I just got suspended.”