This Scandinavian movie answers one of the most important questions of our time: what if Tango and Cash, from Tango and Cash (Andrei Konchalovsky, 1989), were also lovers? Taking the homoerotic subtext of 80s and 90s buddy cop thrillers and putting it at the heart of the movie, this cop parody posits a new kind of hard-boiled masculinity for the 21st century. While ultimately an uneven take on the beloved genre, Cop Secret is a slick, at time hilarious production that shows off a lighter side to the usually dour and stoically-depicted Nordic nation.
Bussi (Auðunn Blöndal) is the toughest cop in Reykjavik, opening the film with blatant disregard for rules, restrictions and different jurisdictions. He’s your typical alpha-male, unwashed protagonist, a bald, leather-jacketed, jäger-swilling, punch-first-ask-questions-later kind of guy who represents an absolute nightmare for the police HR department.
The Sylvester Stallone to his Kurt Russell is the wealthy, metrosexual, impeccably-groomed, openly polyamorous and proudly pansexual Hördur (Egill Einersson). He’s already rich and speaks 15 languages fluently (it would be sixteen but he chose not to learn Danish on principle). Together they fight for supremacy of Iceland: when meeting at the heart of a robbery Bussi asks if Kenny Rogers is playing while Hördur asks if he’s at a casino. Nonetheless, they are both ultimately respectful of each other’s excellent police work and soon find their personal and professional lives tangling.
Villain Rikki (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) is purposefully Europacorp-satirising Eurotrash, talking in English with an accent that feels like a parody of a Trump parody. Haraladsson’s performance is deeply inspired, deliberately bizarre and filled with pointless anecdotes about animal behaviour. It’s the only part of the movie that feels truly cut loose, channelling that raw energy that makes something like Tango and Cash, a complete mess of a movie that’s nonetheless utterly brilliant as a result, so unique.
The American influences, ranging from Lethal Weapon (Richard Donner, 1987) to The Other Guys (Adam McKay, 2010) are pretty pronounced, and the overall tone so polished, Dwayne Johnson — recently himself riffing off this same genre with the rather uneven Hobbs and Shaw (David Leitch, 2019)— could turn up and it wouldn’t feel incongruous. Nonetheless, while American cop comedies thrive off gay panic jokes, baiting audiences with subtext before a Mark Wahlberg-type shouts he’s not “really gay” so everyone can understand he’s still a cool Boston cop, Cop Secret actually goes the extra mile, normalising the concept of a an alpha male cop who can be gay while beating the shit out of bad guys.
The ultimate scheme of the bad guys is mostly irrelevant — something to do with hacking, a football game and a gold reserve — and makes little to no ultimate sense. Thankfully, this satire manages to nail the basics of good, clean action choreography, realising that it has to look like the real deal in order to work at all. While the relatively smaller Icelandic budget sometimes shows in rushed CGI backgrounds and the odd awkward edit, director Hannes Þór Halldórsson (who usually spends his time in goal for the Icelandic national team!) has studied the basics of the genre well, resulting in a fun and easy film to kick back to with a couple of drinks in hand.
Cop Secret played in Concorso internazionale at Locarno Film Festival, when this piece was originally written. It premieres in the UK in October as part of the BFI London Film Festival.