Reese Witherspoon has taken on and created some great roles. She stood out as Joaquin Phoenix’s girlfriend, a no-nonsense lawyer, in Inherent Vice. Her work in Wild and Walk the Line earned her several awards as well as an Oscar nomination and win respectively. Her role as Tracy Flick in Election is probably my favorite. It goes to show that no matter what genre of film she tackles, she brings her A game.
In Hot Pursuit, directed by Anne Fletcher, Reese plays Cooper, a driven police officer who speaks as if she’s reading from a training manual. Her father had taken her for ride-alongs when she was a baby; so she spent her early years memorizing police codes for fun and pretending to apprehend suspects. Now an officer herself, she prides herself on a strict adherence to the law and does not let her guard down. Even on first dates. After several years working in an evidence room, her boss decides to give her a field assignment. She is to transport a woman named Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergera) to Dallas so she can testify in court against her husband’s boss, the leader of a drug cartel named Vicente Cortez. When two sets of killers show up, the husband ends up dead and so does Cooper’s partner. If that isn’t enough, Cooper is framed for her partner’s death and is now on the run with Daniella.
Cooper and Daniella pick up a convict by chance and, after some negotiation, accept his offer to help get them through the state undetected. The convict also happens to have a thing for Cooper, who’s luck with men is next to none. A convicted felon might not seem Cooper’s type, but his motives for getting arrested earn him some points when he explains he beat up his sister’s abusive boyfriend.
I wasn’t sure Sofia Vergara could sustain an entire movie. I enjoyed her as Jon Favreau’s ex-wife in Chef and, with the exception of her scenes in Modern Family, I can only take her in small amounts. Yet you give her a character that best fits her comedic presence and she shines. She plays an annoying, impatient trophy wife who has no trust in cops. She attempts several times to escape Cooper’s grasp. Each time putting both of them in harm’s way, with hilarious results. Daniella is determined to kill Cortez and Cooper does everything she can to convince her to let the law punish him. As the trip goes on, you learn more about Daniella’s backstory and eventually warm up to her, as is the usually progression of such characters. Still you’re never quite sure what her plan really is. I also enjoyed seeing her move across the state, from one vehicle to the next, carrying a rather heavy piece of luggage full of shoes. Sentimental gifts bestowed to her by her late brother. Those shoes may get her killed, but she isn’t leaving home without them. Nor are any of them practical for running.
The director of this film also worked on 27 Dresses and you can see that same lighthearted touch in this dangerous road trip. Instead of planning for weddings, we have dirty cops working for the drug cartel and some funny moments with cocaine and a not-so-erotic embrace between Vergera and Witherspoon. There’s also a ridiculous scene involving a senior citizen tour bus and a car chase. It’s all hard to be believed, but when it’s in a comedy we accept it. At least when it works.
Hot Pursuit isn’t a fully triumphant comedy, but it succeeds more often than not, due mostly to the chemistry of its main actresses. I also enjoyed a rather silly moment with comedian Jim Gaffigan and a shotgun. Supporting actors such as Richard T. Jones and John Carroll Lynch also add weight to Reese Witherspoon’s character, who appears robotic at times with her approach to law enforcement; but she shows an eagerness to prove herself and make her deceased father proud. It’s an endearing side that keeps us attached for the whole movie. Sofia Vergera’s one liners and mispronounced English, such as Rachel profiling, will have you chuckle quite a few times. I would have preferred a more original story and plausible ways of escaping the law. So while Hot Pursuit does take you for a ride, its better if you check your logic and cynicism at the door.
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About HOT PURSUIT
Synopsis: An uptight and by-the-book cop tries to protect the outgoing widow of a drug boss as they race through Texas pursued by crooked cops and murderous gunmen.
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writers: David Feeney, John Quaintance
Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, Matthew Del Negro, Michael Mosley, Robert Kazinky, Richard T. Jones
Runtime: 87 Minutes