18 Jun 2015

Hot Pursuit - film review

From At The Movies, 7:40 pm on 18 June 2015

Directed by Anne Fletcher, starring Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara

Simon Morris reviews minor hit Hot Pursuit, the old "cop escorting the witness" story, with one difference.

Pint-sized star Reese Witherspoon got sick of looking for good parts a few years ago, and decided if Hollywood wasn’t hiring strong women, she’d do it herself. Last year she produced two very successful, women-driven films – Gone Girl and Wild - and this year she moves into, you’d think, her comfort zone – comedy drama.

Hot pursuit is a twist on an old formula – an over-zealous cop drags an unwilling witness to testify against a criminal Mr Big. The twist being that both cop Cooper and witness Mrs Riva are women.

With a setup like this, it’s all in the cooking. Everything in the film is tagged “comedy” with a capital K, from Reese Witherspoon’s desperate uptightness to Sofia Vergara, once again playing her exotic, Latina sex-kitten.

The trouble with playing it broad is that full-on farce is one of the hardest things to keep up without wearing out its welcome.

A ruthless director might have pulled it off, but the Coen Brothers were busy this year. Hot Pursuit’s director, Anne Fletcher, did a nice job on Step Up, and to a lesser degree on The Proposal. This one got away from her.

There’s nothing wrong with the idea of a woman’s take on a hitherto male genre. But once you get your characters in place, that’s when the real work starts. And if you don’t put the effort in before the shooting, then it ends up all too obviously on the screen – as it does in Hot Pursuit.