[Screen It]

(2015) (Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara) (PG-13)

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Comedy: A straight-laced female police officer and the wife of a Colombian drug dealer are forced on the run, targeted by drug-cartel hitmen and corrupt cops.
Rose Cooper (REESE WITHERSPOON) is a disgraced cop now relegated to desk duty in the police evidence room after accidentally tasering a drunk college student and lighting him on fire. She gets a shot at redemption when her boss, Captain Emmett (JOHN CARROLL LYNCH), assigns her to partner with Detective Jackson (RICHARD T. JONES) to protect a criminal named Felipe (VINCENT CARESCA) and his hot-headed wife, Daniella (SOFIA VERGARA), as they prepare to testify against the vicious drug lord, Vicente Cortez (JOAQUIN COSIO).

Daniella is distraught that she will have to enter the government's Witness Protection Program as a result. Those plans are interrupted, though, when two hitmen named Jesus (BENNY NIEVES) and Angel (MICHAEL RAY ESCAMILLA) and corrupt cops Hauer (MATTHEW DEL NEGRO) and Dixon (MICHAEL MOSLEY) launch separate ambushes.

Cooper and Daniella find themselves on the run and clash constantly over everything from the former's straight-laced attitude and insistence on obeying the law to the latter's loud and boisterous manner and willingness to do whatever it takes to stay alive. On the road, they get help from Randy (ROBERT KAZINSKY), a wrongly convicted felon who falls for Cooper. We eventually learn that Jesus and Angel are working for Daniella, who is secretly obsessed with killing Cortez and avenging her murdered brother.

OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
There's no kind way to say it, folks. "Hot Pursuit" is a genuinely awful movie. Awful in ways that make even its pathetic 87-minute running time seem long. It's a misfire on all levels. The plot is jive and uninspired. The performances rank among the worst of everyone's careers. The chemistry between the two leads never truly materializes. It's insulting to women, to Latinas, to cops, to Texans, really to anyone who is able to sit upright for less than an hour and a half and watch images projected on a large white screen. It is an absolute must-avoid.

Worst of all, I can't even take the high road and give stars Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara a pass or the benefit of the doubt. This isn't the case of name actresses having too few scripts to choose from in which the two leads are female. This was a project in which both ladies served as producers, and both have been going around various talk shows and press junkets in days recent with arms locked professing, how much fun this movie was to make. I know they made the movie. But have they actually SEEN the movie?!

Vergara as Daniella, the wife of a drug lord forced on the run, pulls from her limited bag of tricks and delivers exactly what you'd expect -- a shrill, wince-inducing performance in which she lets her cleavage claim most of the performance. It's Witherspoon who is the real disappointment here. She's usually such an engaging presence on screen, and her comic timing has been terrific in such past films as "Election" and "Legally Blonde." She has an Oscar for Caviezel's sake! But I have never seen her give a worse performance. You never once believe her as Rose Cooper, an uptight, buttoned-down, by-the-book police officer who is following in the footsteps of her legendary cop-father. It comes off as a thin, three-minute sketch character stretched out over 90.

The script by David Feeney and John Quaintance does neither of them any favors. Yeah, it's the rare screenplay that has meaty parts for two actresses who are no longer 25. But, of course, it throws in the obligatory scene where the two have to pretend to be lesbians and make out (a scene that plays out SO awkward!) Then, there is the obligatory catfight in a confined space with much tackling, shoving, and hair pulling. There are the scenes where they talk about their periods or menopause, and adult male characters squirm around them. All that's missing is a scene where the two have to dress up as hookers and have a pillow fight with slo-mo feathers. God forbid, there is a sequel.

"Hot Pursuit" proves yet again the importance of a great director. Let's just take "Election." Witherspoon's Tracy Flick could have come across as a shrill, one-note, completely unbelievable character in that film. But with Alexander Payne's sharp writing and clear direction, she was one of the most memorable comic creations of the late 1990s and garnered Witherspoon some of the best reviews of her young career. You walk into Payne's production office today and what do you see? Posters lining the walls of his subsequent films like "About Schmidt," "Sideways," and "The Descendants."

What are the posters hanging on the wall of "Hot Pursuit" director Anne Fletcher's office? It's not pretty, folks. "The Guilt Trip," that putrid Barbara Streisand/Seth Rogen team-up; "27 Dresses," which was not easy to sit through; and "The Proposal." Those aren't accomplishments. That's the row of "Now Playing" film posters leading into a cineplex in Hell.

Add "Hot Pursuit" to the Devil's marquee. It's really that bad, folks. I give it a 1 out of 10 (T. Durgin)

Reviewed May 6, 2015 / Posted May 8, 2015

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