Movie Review : Space Cop (2016)
Red Letter Media is an independent movie production company based in Wisconsin that gained a cult following over the years because of their multiple YouTube film criticism shows such as Half in the Bag and my personal favorite Best of the Worst, where they get hammered and watch terrible movies together. These guys are funny, knowledgeable and have a tremendous on-screen chemistry. They're the proverbial guys you'd like to have a beer and watch movies with.
Red Letter Media also made a handful of feature film which nobody watched because they seemingly have nothing to do with why we love them. Are they good, though? Is Red Letter Media sitting on a gold mine we're willingly ignoring for no particular reason? I've watched their latest movie Space Cop over the weekend because...you know, I like to make my own opinion on stuff.
The story of Space Cop is complicated. Space Cop (played by the immortal Rich Evans) is a dangerous and incompetent cop from the future. He gets demoted to traffic duties after overreacting during a hostage situation a blowing up thousands of people in a mine and gets caught in a vortex chasing down a truant driver in space, inexplicably sending him back to 2007 Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Space Cop struggles adapting to his new life until his superior (Dale Jackson) pairs him with a detective from the past (played by Red Letter Media CEO Mike Stoklasa) Space Cop broke out of a cryogenic facility during a firefight. Together they take on the biggest case on their lives: a mysterious epidemic of gold theft that ties into a sprawling alien conspiracy.
So, Space Cop is not what Mike Stoklasa likes to call "schlock." It's not an accidental bad movie. It's not even a purposeful one. It's a movie that respects the ethos which made Red Letter Media so successful: it's just a bunch of guys having fun together. It's a bona fide feature movie but I'm not sure it should be judged as such. I mean, Rich Evans doesn't "conventionally" play Space Cop. He plays Rich Evans who plays Space Cop. Am I making sense here? The RLM guys are not taking their own movie too seriously, which earned them a shitload of criticism on the internets. Maybe the expectations towards Space Cop weren't clear? Maybe people expected something that would rival titles discussed on Best of the Worst because the Red Letter Media have such insane knowledge of "schlock," but this isn't the case. This is a movie where you foster a relationship with Mike, Jay and Rich more than a relationship to the actual characters. They are the stars more than the actors.
I know this is a weird caveat, but Space Cop does a lot of things well too. This movie is PACKED with smart and subtle jokes. Lots of people have criticized Mike Stoklasa for overacting for example. He's not. His character Ted Cooper is speaking in a mid-Atlantic accent, something every old movie characters did. The set design of Space Cop's apartment in the future is also hilarious. There's a rocking chair, a "home sweet home" wall ornament, a television and a fridge with a digital padlock on it. That entire setting makes no sense. It reminded me of this awesome, lifestyle scene in Cobra where Sylvester Stallone cuts a pizza slice in half with scissors and eats it with his leather gloves on. I also loved how the movie alternates between "violence is stupid" and "violence solves all problems" in terms of message. The uneasy execution of Space Cop might've obfuscated it, but it's a surprisingly clever and well-written movie that delivers the movie history insight that Red Letter Media craved. It's definitely not calling attention to itself.
Space Cop is not quite a "schlock" movie, but it has "schlock" sensibilities. It's a strange project that never seems to settle on a tone it's comfortable with, but it's been maligned by the internets more than it should've. It's a sneaky smart movie that doesn't seem to know how to present itself. I've had a good time with it anyway. Should you bother watching it? Sure, if you're a Red Letter Media completist like I am, it's definitely worth a viewing. Maybe not two, but I enjoyed watching the guys I've seen debating movies for countless hours act in a film of their own. Space Cop doesn't take itself seriously at all. It's a little uneasy around the edges and disturbingly colorful, but the low-key smart screenplay really won me over. Not a misunderstood masterpiece, but not the maligned turd it's been made out to be either.