When Eva from Coffee, Classics, & Craziness announced her Good Cop, Bad Cop Blogathon, the first film that immediately came to my mind was Érik Canuel’s Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006), the most commercially successful Quebecois films of history… so far.
“Bon” literary means “good” in French so, basically, the title of this film is the same as the title of the blogathon. That’s why I immediately thought of it. 😉
This dark comedy-thriller is an opposition between the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, between French and English, and between a rule-bending detective from the Sureté du Québec and a by-the-book detective from the Ontario Provincial Police.
The victim of a murder has been found impaled on the top of a sign demarcating the frontier between Ontario and Quebec. Both the detective from Ontario, Martin Ward (Colm Feore) and the one from Quebec, David Bouchard (Patrick Huard), are called on the scene as the body, well, “touches” both Ontario and Quebec. Therefore, both provinces are “involved” by the situation. Both Ward and Bouchard aren’t interested in the case so they obstinate each other in order to determine who should really take the case. This gives place to a sassy dialogue:
Martin Ward: His heart is in Québec.
David Bouchard: Ya l’Ontario dans l’cul aussi!
Martin Ward: What ?
David Bouchard: But his ass belongs to you.
They both decide to take a ladder to see the body closer. As they reach the top, both the ladders fall and they have to choices but to grab the body not to fall. Bouchard grabs the legs and Ward, the arms. Well, what should happen, happens: the body, already damaged by the impalement parts in half and now it’s clear: half of it is in Quebec and half of it is in Ontario.
So, Martin Ward and David Bouchard don’t have much choice but to join forces in order to solve the murder, for better or but especially for worst since they don’t really like each other. But, they’ll eventually learn to cooperate. All along the investigation, they’ll discover more than one victim and these all have the particularity to have been tattooed by the murderer. These tatoos create connections between each victim and, eventually become clues as for the reason for these murders.
But now, how are they labeled as the bad cop and the good cop? Obviously, David Bouchard is the “bad cop”, but not in the way you might think. He’s not the sadistic cop like Hume Cronyn in Brute Force or like Clancy Brown in Shawshank Redemption. Ok, these are prisons guards, but you get the point. No, David isn’t a bad person or a sociopath. Let’s just say he has unconventional ways to do his job. For example, when he and Martin manage to catch a suspect, he doesn’t put him in the back seat of his car, but in the trunk. See, the guy just has no pity. It, therefore, creates a very eccentric character and allows some hilarious scenes such as the one I just mentioned. David Bouchard simply doesn’t like to follow rules. He’s a rebel at heart. The fact that he breaks into a house without a warrant is another proof of it. This is also shown in his attitude, his way of talking (with a lot of swearing), the old car he uses for the job, and the way he dresses, which makes him look more like a bum than a detective.
But he remains a “good” cop as he helps to the progress of the investigation with the help of Martin Ward.
This one is pretty much the opposite of David Bouchard, and not only because he is an English-speaker. This is first shown by his apartment, which is very clean in opposition to David’s one, just like his clothes, which include a well-pressed jacket and a black turtleneck, which David really likes to make fun of. Martin Ward is also a bit snobbish and this is shown in his very by-the-book methods and the pedantic things he can say:
David Bouchard: [surprised] You speak French?
Martin Ward: No, not really. I had a small gadget installed in my brain and I see subtitles under people when they speak.
And then he talks about the fact that he went to French school and spent a year in Paris.
But, even if Martin Ward seems a bit like a “boring” person in opposition to David, he might actually be the most interesting character as he changes a lot during the film. He actually becomes more and more influenced by David and not a so by-the-book detective after all. I was mentioning the suspect being put in David’s car trunk. Well, this is what Martin Ward has to say about it:
Harry Buttman: [the suspect] Don’t you know who I am? We’ll sue your asses. You can’t put me in the trunk of a car.
Martin Ward: Yes we can. It’s Quebec tradition.
[Ward closes the car trunk]
And cases like this happen on several occasions.
The comedy in Bon Cop, Bad Cop is created by the way the two cops like to tease each other, the opposition between the French and English languages and the references to French-Canadian and English-Canadian culture. By the way, despite being a Quebecois movie, the film is both in French and English. I, however, believe it was more successful in Quebec than in English-Canada. All this creates some delightful situations and that’s why the main force of the film is the screenplay.
If we first look at the opposition between Martin and David, both like to make fun of each other based on their home province, their personality, and habits.
Iris Ward: What are you doing here?
Johnathan Ward: I just saved my dad.
David Bouchard: From what? Heart attack by watching curling on TV?
Or when Martin says to one of his policemen co-worker “He is from Quebec”, talking about David and trying to justify his manners.
Also, during a fight in the restaurant with the first suspect (the one put in the trunk of the car), Martin finds himself in a bad position and asks for David for help, but this one only agrees to help him if he asks him in French. Then, the opposite situation happens.
Talking about language, the film obviously makes a lot of fun of Quebecois trying to speak English. But, luckily, we have a good sense of humour. 😉 While Martin Ward has a subtle English accent when he speaks French, his French is much better than David’s English is. Obviously, the Quebecois in this film don’t care much for the English language. It’s also the case for David’s superior, Captain LeBoeuf (Pierre Lebeau):
David Bouchard: [in French] Chief, it’s okay – I understand English.
Capt. Le Boeuf: [French] Ah, shit.
[to MacDuff, in English]
Capt. Le Boeuf: It’s okay. David… can English.
Brian MacDuff: [doesn’t understand]
Capt. Le Boeuf: He can English. He can…
Brian MacDuff: [gets it] Oh! Okay!
Capt. Le Boeuf: [continues in broken English] So, uh – we thought it would be good, uh – hopititit… it was a good…
Brian MacDuff: Opportunity.
Capt. Le Boeuf: It was a good… hopportunity to…
Martin Ward: [in French] You may speak French, Captain.
Capt. Le Boeuf: [French] Ah, for fuck’s sake…
This is obviously very caricatural. We don’t all speak English like this! Well, I hope I don’t! But it holds a part of truth as some people from Quebec really do.
I also like the various references to Quebecois culture this film presents. There are also some references to Ontarian culture, but I think they are less interesting because I’m not Ontarian and, therefore, don’t necessarily understand them.
Here is one of my favourite examples:
When the suspect Luc Therrien (Sylvain Marcel) hides in a Hockey mascot costume, he stands in front of a bathroom mirror with his gun in his hand and says to his reflection “You talkin’ to me?” This is obviously a reference to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (nothing to do with our local culture), but, at one point, he also yells “Ah-Ha!” which is a reference ot the Familiprix television commercials in which the actor Sylvain Marcel plays a pharmacist who witnesses a situation where somebody gets hurt. When it happens, he yells “Ah-Ha! Familiprix!” which is a famous slogan here in Quebec.
Examples of Familiprix commercials:
We could talk endlessly about the humour in this film, but it also contains a part of seriousness and more “dramatic” situations such as the climax where [SPOILER] David’s daughter, Gabrielle (Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse), is taken in hostage by the “tattoo killer”.
The actors in this film all give justice to their characters and give very good performances. I’ve always like Patrick Huard who plays David Bouchard and, while I’m less familiar with Colm Feore, his acting as the snobbish Martin Ward is admirable too. Lucie Laurier (sister of Charlotte Laurier, another famous Quebecois actress) and Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse both give performances with a lot of energy and determination as David’s ex-wife and daughter. Humorist Louis-José Houde also plays a small part in the film and his hilarious as always. Interesting fact: actor Patrick Huard also participated in the writing of the film’s screenplay.
Bon Cop, Bad Cop was a commercial film, but also has a lot of qualities and is not only “commercial” in the pejorative sense of the word. Commercial successes in Quebec are actually a good thing. Obviously, our industry isn’t as big as Hollywood one (you don’t say!) and our stars don’t make millions like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie do. So, commercially successful movies are only a sign that our industry is working well and that our small, but strong cinematic culture, is given chances. The film made around 10 million at the box office (which is A LOT for a Quebecois film) making it one of the 10 most successful films at the Quebecois box office among big Hollywood stuff like Titanic, Lord of the Ring and Avatar. The film wasn’t only a huge commercial success, but also received a good critical success, winning a few awards such as the Best Motion Picture, Best Achievement in Overall Sound and the Golden Reel Award at the Genie Awards (our Canadian Oscars). At the same Awards, it was also nominated for Best Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Direction, Best Achievement in Editing, Best Achievement in Music – Original Song, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (both for Huard and Feore), and Best Achievement in Sound Editing. So yeah, that’s not too bad, right? 😉 It also won and was nominated for Jutra Awards, Canadian Comedy Awards, Director Guild of Canada Awards, and prices at Boulder, Hong Kong, Seattle, and Stockholm film festivals.
Even if you aren’t Quebecois or Canadian and might not necessarily understand all the cultural jokes in the film, I believe you might enjoy it just the same. It’s a thrilling story that keeps you on the edge of your seat from the beginning until the end!
A film sequel was released in 2017, but I haven’t got the chance to see it yet.
A big thank you to Eva for hosting this great blogathon. Don’t forget to read the other entries here!
See you! 🙂
I’ll leave you with the trailer!