Hot Pursuit is simply a buddy comedy gone wrong: imagine Midnight Run with less interesting characters, a thinner plot and more shouting. The story follows Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) a straight-laced, by-the-book Texan cop as she attempts to transport Riva (Sofia Vergara) – the hysterical wife of a mafia boss – across the state and into police custody. Obstacles she is forced to surmount come in the form of corrupt police officers, mafia hit men and Riva’s insuppressible bond with her cumbersome collection of high-heels.
Witherspoon and Vergara, both accomplished comedic actresses in their own rights, do not gel in this instance. This is surprising, as the physical disparity between Vergara’s imposingly tall, womanly figure and Witherspoon’s ineffectual petiteness make a natural comedic pairing. However, the great potential for humour this combination could elicit is impaired partly by Vergara’s performance, partly by the script and partly by Fletcher’s direction. The main impediment to the humour is that both characters are larger-than-life, both grounded in the absurd, therefore, each reacts as ridiculously as the other and the audience has no one to relate to.
The character of Riva is consistently inconsistent, grieving hysterically at the loss of her husband one moment and making petty jokes about Cooper’s poor taste in shoes the next. One thing that the audience can rely on is that, rather than show any real emotion, Riva will respond to any situation by shouting and in this respect, Vergara’s performance shows as much variance as the heartbeat of a patient flatlining post-cardiac arrest. Director Anne Fletcher, famed for her dance expertise and skilled choreography that made such a success of Step Up, is, in this comedic context, naturally drawn to the exploration of physical humour. However, though funny at times, too frequently does she try to shoehorn in slapstick clowning, often adding little effect other than the compromisation of the characters’ integrity.
It seems as though the two main characters continuously try too hard to disagree, and despite going through plenty of fights, heart-to-hearts, break-ups and make-ups, their essential core dynamics remain stagnant throughout. The plot, despite containing more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese, has just enough surprises to keep it mildly interesting but, on the whole, this film’s strongest asset is that it only lasts 88 minutes.
Hot Pursuit is released nationwide on July 31st 2015.
Watch the trailer for Hot Pursuit here: