BFI London Film Festival presents Cop Secret; book festival tickets here.
Downtown Reykjavík cop Bussi (Audunn Blöndal) doesn’t believe in following the rules, his freewheeling, heavy drinking style of policing pushing the very boundaries of the law. His less than enthusiastic crime-fighting partner Klemenz (Sverrir Thór Sverrisson), the subject of daily humiliation from Reykjavík’s supercop. However, Bussi is not the only supercop in town, as just across the city, Hörður (Egill Einarsson) is slowly becoming a celebrity cop in his own right. His buff, perfectly polished appearance and pansexual lifestyle, a world away from Bussi’s heavy drinking and rough and ready persona. But, when a series of strange bank robberies break out across Reykjavík, Bussi and Hörður find themselves thrown together in solving the crime.
However, the dynamic duo is unaware that a sociopathic ex-model, Rikki (Björn Hlynur Björnsson), is behind the crimes. His industrial estate lair housing a group of henchmen and women who question his every command behind his back while moaning about the lack of facilities. But that’s not the only challenge our cop duo face as they slowly fall in love. Bussi’s struggle with years of sexual denial set free as Hörður allows him the space to step out from behind his 80s tough-guy image.
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Directed by Hannes Þór Halldórsson, who also happens to be a professional goalkeeper for the Icelandic national football team. Cop Secret is far more than a simple parody of the classic American action flick; it’s an intelligent subversion of the action genre and its ongoing failure to embrace change. Here gender and sexuality sit front and centre, with the heterosexual testosterone-fuelled stereotypes of the all-action movie turned on their head via an intelligent and witty screenplay penned by Halldórsson, Blöndal and Einarsson.
There is an unspoken golden rule in creating any spoof, one bound in ensuring the final picture not only parodies its target genre but embraces its aesthetic to the full. Many parodies over the years have failed to realise this, the result nothing more than a comedy sketch stretched beyond its comedic worth. Halldórsson clearly understands this and, in turn, creates a high octane action picture worthy of the genre. While at the same time delightfully twisting and contorting audience expectations after every gunshot, punch or explosion. Cop Secret’s narrative plays with action pictures ranging from the Die Hard series to Tango and Cash (1989). While equally embracing the comedic tones of Dragnet (1987). But, it’s Halldórsson’s embrace of LGBTQ+ themes that make Cop Secret genuinely exceptional.
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For many years the action picture has embraced heterosexuality as the norm, often fuelling homophobia in its portrayal of masculinity. However, at the same time, many action pictures are packed to the brim with bromance themes and imagery. In placing two gay cops centre stage, while equally exploring themes of internalised homophobia, Halldórsson creates something groundbreaking; a gay action-comedy that never uses the sexuality of its leads as a cheap comedic football. Instead, we are offered two action heroes who just happen to be gay and in love. The sexual awakening of Bussi in the presence of Hörður is beautifully staged as he realises an all-action super cop can transcend the stereotypes of masculinity.
Of course, any comedy relies heavily on the performances at its heart, and here Cop Secret excels. Blöndal and Einarsson are a joy to watch as our dynamic cop duo, their performances bouncing from scene to scene with raucous energy. But its Björn Hlynur Björnsson’s Rikki who steals the show. His Bondesque villain, utterly brilliant as he parodies the classic baddy who is hell-bent on world domination. The result is a bright, fun and intelligent action-comedy that places feisty gay men, strong women and people with disabilities centre stage. Halldórsson joyously unpicks the American action movie with a ton of Icelandic charm, wit and creativity. And I, for one, would love to see where Bussi and Hörður go next.