Credit: Locarno Film Festival
by Ben Flanagan Featured Film Horizon Line

Cop Secret — Hannes Þór Halldórsson

July 11, 2022

Cop Secret begins with a dubious premise and carries it through to inauthentic and aesthetically false ends.

It’s the Icelandic homophobia-baiting comedy you didn’t know you needed, and wish you hadn’t seen: Cop Secret wears its mock-’90s blockbuster aesthetic on its sleeve with shredded guitar and large, bold titles. Forget Rodman and Van Damme, here come Blöndal and Einarsson (respectively, the host of Punk’d Iceland and renowned Motivational Speaker/DJ). These ingredients should add up to something unique, but director Hannes Þór Halldórsson (whom you may know as the goalkeeper of Iceland’s Football team) is too self-aware, and pulls his punches to no-homo effect. 

Blöndal is Bússi. He may be a supercop, but he has demons. His hard drinking and total lack of interest in his wife are explained when he begins masturbating over a men’s fitness magazine before pulling a gun on himself, “Stop it. Are you a cop or not?” Fortunately, his new partner is Hörður (Einarsson), a hunk who helps Bússi come out while modelling various aviator shades and waistcoats. 

Halldórsson manages to approximate the look of the action films he’s pastiching. Or, at least, the use of washed out colors and fast-cutting makes it clear that action films are being pastiched. This sometimes creates amusing dissonance with the goofy performances, as when Bússi’s colleague berates him during a car chase, “You humiliated me at the staff party!” It’s interesting that the film centers around an Iceland v. England football match, because the nations share the same quaint, bathos-heavy approach to cinematic humor. But Cop Secret translates poorly. 

The villainous Rikki (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) even speaks in English, his pointed Icelandic accent giving him an almost Willem Dafoe-esque croak. It’s one thing to accept that this terrorist dons an enormous, Robbie Rotton-sized bouffant and specifically targets one closeted cop because of his own insecurities. But that the Icelandic characters can talk back to him in their own language, and they all understand each other, makes the film even more artificial. 

It would be one thing if this was used as an aesthetic strategy to heighten the humor, but Cop Secret feels so aesthetically false — a Chinatown obviously set up with lanterns and neon, a prostitute in a fur coat and stockings. Hell, if it had a glimmer of authenticity the viewer wouldn’t question these tropes, but Cop Secret does nothing to interrogate its world, even as it purports to flip the heterodoxy of the genre on its head. It doesn’t get more transgressive than a gay cop punching a female baddie and quipping, “Sorry, you’re not my type.” It all seems crudely designed to be remade into an American film — one has flashbacks to Sandler and James queering up in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Of course, Bússi will eventually have to choose between the badge and his pride, but as Cop Secret never develops beyond the original premise: What if a gay man was a cop? One begins to wonder if this blue life even matters.

Originally published as part of Locarno Film Festival 2021 — Dispatch 1,