Release Date: 3rd April 2020
Genre: Action, Comedy
Directors: Michael Dowse
Writers: Shane Mack
Stars: Betty Gilpin, Taraji P. Henson, Ed Helms
COFFEE and KAREEM is an action-comedy about forging unexpected bonds, one four-letter insult at a time. Co-starring Betty Gilpin, RonReaco Lee, Andrew Bachelor and David Alan Grier.
Warning: May Contain Spoilers
There's pretty much no more time tested formula in the movie biz than the buddy cop comedy. Unless, of course, you're talking about the odd couple cop comedy. Two polar opposites, one usually a stickler for doing things by the book while the other is a loudmouthed “loose cannon” who (*cues movie trailer guy voice*) “plays by his own rules”. Watching the constant missteps and miscommunications of the two protagonists is the classic (*clears throat*), “They'll kill the bad guys.... if they don't kill each other first” energy that's driven many a movie franchise.
Of course the problem with formulas is that they've been repeated so many times with so many different variations that it's hard to do much that's not easily predictable. While “Coffee & Kareem” does sometimes run into the predictability problem from time to time it proves easier to keep things relatively fresh when there is an irreverent racial dynamic involved and the “loose cannon” is actually a foul mouthed 12 year old trying to arrange a “hit” paid for with a bunch of loose change he's carrying around in an old gym sock.
The caper starts when Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh), a 12 year old with a big mouth and even bigger dreams of becoming a “gangster” rapper, catches his hard working single mother Vanessa (Taraji P. Henson) getting frisky with her new, secret, and ridiculously square boyfriend Officer James Coffee (Ed Helms) of the Detroit PD. Realizing that his mother having a boyfriend that's a cop could ruin his (non-existent) street cred, and certainly not because he'd miss having his mother's full attention to himself (perish the though), he hatches a plan. Reaching out to his gangster rap hero, a local artist named Orlando, he tries to arrange for Coffee to take a beating and hopefully scare him off. Unfortunately, as Orlando is a fugitive, when Kareem finds him at his not-so-secret hideout he winds up seeing and recording something he shouldn't, threatening to expose a network of drug dealers and dirty cops. Suddenly Coffee and Kareem are on the run together with the only people they can barely trust, each other.
Having seen some of the reviews online I can't help, but think these reviewers are judging this film based on what they thought they would see, especially since one of the main protagonists is a child, instead of what they actually got. First off, this ain't no kids movie, and it clearly was never intended to be. The humor is raunchy and the language is definitely foul. The movie is clearly playing against the kids movie archetype, which is part of the joke. And, while it has definite moments of violence, this isn't meant to be any down and gritty experience either.
The movie is a outlandish, slapstick comedy that reminds me of some of the the buddy cop flicks I grew up with. “48 Hours”, “Beverly Hills Cop”, “Turner & Hooch”, “Tango & Cash”, etc. I'm not saying that Coffee & Kareem lives up to those movies, but I see the clear influence in the way it's structured and the action we see in the fights, shootouts and car chases (which I believe properly illustrates how stupid and annoying traffic roundabouts are). Ed Helms is engaging rather than cheesy as the straight man to both Kareem and his main adversary on the force Det. Watts (Betty Gilpin, GLOW-Netflix... Watch It), bearing up under their constant stream of abuse and putdowns. His poorly executed attempts to be a “bad boy” are also pretty amusing.
I also have to say I appreciate the writing for and/or the leway to improvise given to the black performers in the movie. I felt the characters had real voices and weren't just actors forced to spout some fake “jive” talk barfed onto the page by a writer that doesn't really understand the voice of the African-American community. I also appreciate that, despite the trope of being “gangsters” none of them were really cold “thugs”. Most of the time it felt like they were overly sensitive co-workers just a rude email away from reporting each other to the gang's HR Department.
In the end... I appreciated the outright silliness of the concept, surprisingly solid action, and some solid editing and pacing that kept the movie down to it's essentials, making sure they joke to didn't lose it's strength by going on too long. I can definitely understand that this one isn't for everyone, but if you don't go in expecting too much and appreciate the buddy cop genre it's built on my guess is you'll enjoy it.
Final Score: [7.5 out of 10]
Reviewed by: Tobias Elmore
Follow his facebook page for more reviews: The-Would-Be-Filmmaker
Watch Coffee & Kareem, only on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/in/title/80220009
Also, here is the trailer for the movie:
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