Super Troopers

Pull over and surrender to this gem of a road comedy. It's the law!

Released in 2001, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 09 Jun 2003 by Craig Eastman
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Say what you want about the dedication of British police officers, but they can seldom be found beating up fast food assistants or measuring their masturbation rate with a speed gun. Not so the American highway patrol cops apparently, or at least US comedy collective Broken Lizard would have us believe so for this, their first foray into the world of film.

Super Troopers paints a fairly despairing picture of these road warriors, and although there's certainly a major element of hyperbole, our yank cousins would do well to keep off the roads if even a fraction of this madness rings true. Our protagonists are the Spurbury Highway Patrol; a ragtag band of mischief-makers raised under the presumably neglectful eye of Captain John O'Hagan (Brian Cox). Lead by Trooper Arcot 'Thorny' Ramathorn (co-writer and director Jay Chandrasekhar), the five cheeky cops seem bent on creating as much havoc amongst motorists as possible, despite the threat of their station being shut down if quotas for arrests are not met.

A typical day in the life of these guys seems to consist of scaring dope-heads witless and making them eat their entire stash as punishment, taking time out for a spot of fishing at a local bridge, as well as the afore mentioned burger-joint shakedowns and roadside pleasure-measurement. For these guys, department closure takes second place to high-jinks, but the discovery of a drug-related death on their stretch of tarmac soon brings things into perspective.

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Initially reluctant to take an interest in the case, our antiheros hand it over to the local cops with whom they are in competition for survival. They soon realise their mistake, however, as the discovery develops into a potentially major drugs bust that could save or destroy their department depending on who makes the closure. So it is that the boys set out to undermine the efforts of the downright nasty local boys by whatever means necessary in an investigation that has more in common with the Marx Brothers than the Untouchables.

The plot, such as it is, develops in an entirely predictable way with some less than shocking revelations about the integrity of the local cops. The detective work is all very well (and decidedly spurious for the most part), but we're not here to witness Sherlock Holmes-like levels of deductive prowess. Rather we are here to see people in authority do some very silly and irresponsible things indeed, and Broken Lizard are fortunately very much aware of this.

Super Troopers does nothing at all that is new or particularly inventive, but the core cast are quite obviously extremely comfortable in their assumed personas and play on their established camaraderie to maximum effect. There is a palpable sense of the outsiders not sharing the same comic prowess or symbiotic sense of humour as the Lizard team, but this is not necessarily such a bad thing as it helps distance the good guys from the bad guys quite effectively without having to signpost things too blatantly (although this does occur frequently in the movie, albeit for comic effect). For the most part, our Troopers play a blinder of a comic turn, never missing the opportunity for some offbeat japes and wisely consigning the investigative activities to the back seat. It's a common comedy trap well avoided, as evidenced by the increasingly banal Police Academy series with which this shares much in spirit, but thankfully little in quality.

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The riffing between characters is never less than entertaining, but frequently hilarious. I'm not familiar with the history of these guys, but I believe they've been together as an act since their latter years in education, and the bond certainly shows. There's some wicked dialogue, much of which may well be ad-libbed, but even the scripted stuff seems naturally goofy and fitting in the context of the story. Similarly the situations they find themselves in may not be entirely believable (locked in the back of an 18-wheeler full of hash discussing STDs), but one never has time to stop and question the absurdity of it all. A general rule of thumb I find is that if the actors on screen are having fun, chances are the audience will be too, and this is one movie where everyone is having fun. It's particularly pleasing to see the currently omnipotent Brian Cox having a whale of a time, pretty much maximising his limited screen time, particularly in the final reel.

Ultimately with this kind of thing, it's the amount of time you spend laughing that counts, and Super Troopers hits the mark way more frequently than most films of this ilk. The direction afforded by Chandrasekhar is serviceable, but it's perhaps for the greater good that he avoids flashy techniques whilst he and his pals do what they do best. If I sound a little vague about the content of the movie it's deliberate; I'd really rather you discovered the best bits for yourself. Super Troopers is childish, immature, irresponsible, has lots of swearing in it, and is incredibly funny. If that's what the doctor ordered then do yourself a favour and overdose on this. You'll be right as rain in no time.

Craig Disko has pulled this movie over and endorsed it's license with 4 out of 5 Disko Giggle Ticks.

Jay Chandrasekhar
Cast list:
Jay Chandrasekhar (Trooper Arcot 'Thorny' Ramathorn)
Kevin Heffernan (Trooper Rodney Farva)
Steve Lemme (Trooper MacIntyre 'Mac' Womack)
Erik Stolhanske (Trooper Robert 'Rabbit' Roto)
Paul Soter (Trooper Jeff Foster)
Brian Cox (Capt. John O'Hagan)