Film Review – Hot Pursuit (2015)

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In a time where female-fronted comedies are soaring, the thought of Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara leading an odd-couple comedy caper sounds quite fun. Well sadly a weak script, flat direction, and a failure to utilise its lead stars means that Anne Fletcher‘s Hot Pursuit is one of the most crushing misfires of the cinematic year.

By-the-book Officer Cooper (Witherspoon) is given the chance to escape the evidence desk at work when tasked with transporting Daniella Riva (Vergara), a key witness in the trial of a drug lord, to testify in Dallas. However the unlikely pair fall prey to corrupt cops, gangsters, rednecks, and a handsome ex-con (Robert Kazinsky) en-route.

Hot Pursuit is especially frustrating as all the ingredients are in-place in this framework to craft a likeable comic romp. The pairing of Witherspoon and Vergara is ripe with comic potential, whilst the overdone but generally successful ‘odd-couple on the run’ formula is a tried and tested one sure to result in a few solid laughs. However, David Feeney and John Quaintance’s tired screenplay never manages to find any gags deeper than surface level – with the emphasis being on Daniella’s looks – infuriating as Vergara’s previous work on Modern Family showcases a comic range that plays on more than her busty persona.

Feenery and Quaintance’s main attempt to find comedy is in the juxtaposition between Cooper, the lonely, ‘boyish-looking’, stiff cop, with Daniella, the sexually exaggerated, fiery Latino. Whilst there is a welcome spark in the performances of Hot Pursuit‘s two leads, the material they are working with is so sub-standard that it is a struggle to like this caper, regardless of how much you try. This banter runs out of steam early-on, relying on clichéd interplay revolving around Cooper’s awkwardness regarding sex and Daniella’s reliance on her glamour. This often flat interplay connects tired by-the-numbers action scenes (the hijacking of a tour bus, shoot-outs) that fail to deliver any form of energetic kick.

Hot Pursuit even features a scene with Witherspoon’s Cooper on an accidental coke-high – something that sounds relatively amusing to this writer – but on-screen lacks the killer punches that it should have. I will admit to having a chuckle at the motor-mouthed Southern cop’s line “When I was seven, I saw two squirrels kissing. I watched them for way too long.”

When working with the right material director Fletcher can deliver a watch that amuses and pulls at the heartstrings. The Proposal had consistent laughs, whilst her Streisand starring success The Guilt Trip was a warm-hearted romp. Hot Pursuit proves too shallow in its humour, visual panache and action set-pieces to engage for its brief runtime. Witherspoon and Vergara prevent this from being unbearable, despite the desperate need for sharper material.

[rating=2]
Andrew McArthur

Comedy, Crime | USA, 2015 |15 | Warner Bros Pictures | 31st July 2015 (UK) | Dir.Anne Fletcher | Reese Witherspoon, Sofía Vergara, Matthew Del Negro, Michael Mosley, Robert Kazinsky