The Takedown is inoffensive as a buddy cop comedy, but runs into trouble with its reductive neoliberal political invocations.
Louis Leterrier’s The Takedown, a sequel to 2012’s The Other Side of the Tracks, is a buddy cop comedy in the Shane Black mold, only without Lethal Weapon’s edge. Former partners Ousmane (Omar Sy) and Francois (Laurent Lafitte), the former a supercop Captain and the latter a washed-up, womanizing Lieutenant, are once again teamed up on a murder case in the French countryside. It’s your standard story of mismatched cops trying to get along as they work a case much bigger than the both of them, and so such a film will largely live or die not on narrative but on character and action. There’s an added political wrinkle too, as the case leads Ousmane and Francois on a collision course with a fascist conspiracy.
For their part, Sy and Lafitte make for charming leads, and their interplay is consistently amusing, if never exactly laugh-out-loud funny. There isn’t much to their characters aside from the broad strokes, but they do fine work with what’s on the page, Sy especially. With such thinly drawn characters, it’s a relief that The Takedown doesn’t lean too heavily on the pair’s opposing personalities for tension since there’s not much there to begin with. Instead, Leterrier relies on comedic action set pieces to carry the movie. These are mostly fine, as Leterrier is a competent but uninspired director who orchestrates a few slick sequences that do what they’re meant to. A couple car chases are fine for what they are, but inspire little confidence in Leterrier’s upcoming tenth Fast & Furious movie. And while Ousmane has a penchant for fistfights, the director doesn’t have the same inclination or skill for shooting them. Really, none of these sequences are outright bad or even unenjoyable, but it’s hard to justify the film’s two-hour runtime on the back of repetitive sequences that are all just fine at best. The political angle that slowly takes over the movie is more engaging, both for its marked difference from other films in the genre, and because, at times, it seems like it may be going somewhere intelligent. Put under scrutiny, though, and this too starts to seem like shoddy work.
While the surprising and superficially righteous political underpinnings of The Takedown elevate it beyond the wafer-thin action-comedy it appears to be, their eventual flattening into a story of Parisian cops taking down fascists in the countryside is a sour lie, the daydream of cosmopolitan liberals desperate for absolution. This is not to say that the film does not attempt to tackle Parisian racism and sexism through Francois’ casual reactionary attitudes or the city police department’s attempts at tin-eared virtue signaling. But it firmly locates the roots of fascist movements in the countryside, as if the symptoms of right-wing sentiment in the city is ultimately less harmful. It’s a smoothing over of the issue, an avoidance of truth in the name of making a simple cop movie. When Ousmane is recruited by the police to be the face of a new social media campaign — using a Black face to portray a more open-minded, inclusive department — he is rightfully offended to be used as a tool for what is effectively a sanitizing of the police’s image. For all The Takedown wants to poke fun at campaigns like this, it becomes one itself, a simple, mildly funny buddy cop comedy that lamely invokes politics for points, stumbling into the lie that police are somehow the enemy of fascism.
You can stream Louis Leterrier’s The Takedown on Netflix beginning on May 6.