Hot Pursuit (2015) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, violence, language and some drug material
Running Time: 87 min.
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, John Carroll Lynch, Joaquin Cosio, Matthew Del Negro, Michael Mosley, Robert Kazinsky, Richard T. Jones, Benny Nieves, Michael Ray Escamilla, Jim Gaffigan
Small role: Mike Brbiglia, Anne Fletcher
Director: Anne Fletcher
Screenplay: David Feeney, John Quintance
Review published May 8, 2015
Hot Pursuit is a hot mess.
Someone, somewhere, must have thought the Midnight Run-esque mismatched pairing of Reese Witherspoon (Inherent Vice, Wild) and Sofia Vergara (Chef, Machete Kills) would yield comedy gold, as with so many other buddy movies over the years, but they make the fatal mistake so many others have made before it when they fail: actors are not comedians, so without a genuinely funny script, the laughs won't be there.
Reese is a rigidly by-the-book, penal code-reciting San Antonio, Texas police officer named Cooper, whose past mistakes in the line of duty has relegated her to the shame of desk and evidence room duties these days. However, due to a law that a female cop must be involved in the transport of a female witness (Vergara) named Daniella Riva, she's back out in the field in order to protect the wife of an informant to testifying against Vicente Cortez (Cosio, Cantinflas), the murderous leader of a major drug cartel, as they travel from San Antonio to Dallas for his trial. However, between Cortez's men and some cops on the take, the odd couple that can't get along must find away to stay alive, while also not trying to kill each other in the process.
Witherspoon also serves as producer, so even if she is perhaps the best part of the film (which isn't saying anything, really, because she's pretty bad), one can still blame her as much as anything else for its failure. Vergara's name appears as an executive producer, so she can't be exonerated either, but her over-acting alone is enough to secure culpability. With Witherspoon doing a Holly Hunter impression and Vergara doing the same Fran Drescher-meets-Charo sassy shtick she's built a career on, there's just nothing there to get a hold on in order to build comedic momentum. Sure, they try to gin up some laughs, but feeble things you've already seen in the trailer, such as pretending to be lesbian lovers to finagle their way out of a tight spot, being covered head-to-toe in cocaine that makes Cooper go cuckoo, donning a decoy deer costume to sneak by a roadblock, faking the onset of a period in order to get let out of a police vehicle, or unsuccessfully commandeering a tour bus full of seniors who seem entertained by their vehicle gone out of control, fail to put any fizz in this flat production.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Hot Pursuit as a so-called buddy comedy is that, at no time, do we genuinely feel like they connect. Both Witherspoon and Vergara seem to be doing their own things throughout, rather than adequately playing off one another, so by the end, when we get the "boy, we both had fun and actually like each other" moments eventually emerge, it's a tough sell. They are one-dimensional caricatures who hide behind phony personas, even to each other. More likely, they'd walk away and never give the other a moment's thought in hindsight. It's hard to imagine they like each other when they don't display anything remotely likeable to us in the audience.
Without the requisite wit in the screenplay by TV scribes David Feeney and John Quintance, the actresses have little choice but to go for a manic, shrill energy, half-hearted insults about height and age, and forced slapstick. Witherspoon and Vergara are like two wet wooden sticks, rubbing up against one another in a futile attempt to try to spark a fire. But there's no fire in Hot Pursuit, just two hot actresses stuck in a dead-on-arrival comedy that's akin to a cinematic "Ice Bucket Challenge" to its unfortunate audience, who'd have been better off donating their ticket price to a worthy charity than a vacuum of hilarity.
©2015 Vince Leo