Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, Jim Gaffigan, John Carroll Lynch, Mike Birbiglia, Richard T. Jones DIRECTED BY
Anne Fletcher SCREENPLAY
David Feeney, John Quaintance MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13 RUNNING TIME
87 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY
"Hot Pursuit" Is Mostly Lukewarm
It's hard not to wonder if maybe Reese Witherspoon simply wasn't tired after a year in which she gave one Oscar-nominated performance (Wild), one highly acclaimed performance (The Good Lie), and had a praised performance in a Paul Thomas Anderson film (Inherent Vice).
Now, she's back to reality with Hot Pursuit, yet the latest in a long line of paint-by-number odd couple/buddy flicks. Hot Pursuit is neither good nor bad - it simply is. Unfortunately, coming on the heels of multiple films that reminded all of us how good Witherspoon can be in the right material makes this film a particularly difficult one to watch. Witherspoon plays Rose Cooper, a San Antonio cop with more of a reputation for screwing up than serving justice. When she and a partner are assigned to escort Daniella (Sofia Vergara), an Amazonish beauty, and her husband to testify against a notorious cartel drug dealer, the question isn't if the film will follow a cliche'd path toward resolution but exactly which cliche's it will choose to follow.
Trust me, you'll recognize them.
Of course, it kind of goes without saying that nothing goes as planned when the cartel leader's hitmen decide to interrupt the proceedings and suddenly both of our ladies are without their partners and forcibly buddied up when those hitmen may not be "just" hitmen. Suddenly, Rose and Daniella are on the road in a Cadillac convertible because, of course, if you're going to make a road movie you've got to have a cool looking vehicle to do it in.
The good news is that Witherspoon and Vergara do possess a fairly good chemistry. In fact, that may be what makes the film most frustrating - it's hard not to see the potential that's here. Unfortunately, it's only potential. Hot Pursuit is timidly constructed, unappealingly photographed, awkwardly edited and simply wouldn't be that much fun to watch if not for the energetic chemistry between our two leads.
There are a couple of scenes that work quite well in Hot Pursuit, but they are unfortunately surrounded by scenes that fall disappointingly flat. Director Anne Fletcher (Step Up, The Proposal), gives glimpses of really giving this film a spark, but she seems to be hindered by a script that repeats itself a little too often and never really gives this quality cast an opportunity to shine. In fact, the best scenes in the film are in the bloopers at film's end that serve to provide all the humor and spark that the rest of the film is lacking.
Hot Pursuit isn't so godawful that it makes you want Witherspoon to hand back her Oscar nomination. It's simply mediocre enough to make you wish she'd honor all those things she said last year about choosing her projects more wisely.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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