If you couldn’t tell by the title, One Tough Cop is about, well, one tough cop. It’s a by-the-numbers cop drama filled to the gills with generic characters, generic situations and generic dialogue.
Stephen Baldwin stars as NYPD detective Bo Dietl…supposedly a legendary NY cop, but who apparently did nothing noteworthy enough to include in a film (everything except Dietl’s name has no basis in fact). If you’ve ever seen a cop movie, or watched a police drama on TV, you know Dietl’s type…the gruff but loyal cop who isn’t ashamed to bend the rules as long as justice gets done.
What’s a cop without a doomed partner? In this case, the walking stiff is “Duke” (portrayed by Chris Penn). At least, Duke isn’t three days away from retiring and sailing around the world on a yacht named “Live-4-Ever”…One Tough Cop has standards, you know. Instead, Duke is saddled with a hefty gambling debt and a pathetic John Wayne impersonation. If he didn’t already have a huge red bullseye painted on his chest, you’d probably be eager to paint one there.
Bo and Duke’s alleged case is catching a pair of bad guys who raped and mutilated a nun. Besides providing a few lurid and distasteful shots, the actual crime doesn’t really matter here. Even Bo and Duke’s “unique” path to solving it is rather straightforward and uninteresting.
What does provide a little spice to the proceedings, however, is the fact that Bo’s best friend, Richie La Cassa (Mike McGlone), just happens to be a mafia boss. Bo doesn’t see that as a conflict… neither with his job, nor with sleeping with Richie’s girlfriend, Joey (Gina Gershon).
That love triangle is about as complex as the screenplay here ever gets. Granted, that might be enough basis for an interesting movie…but not here, not with this screenplay. The dialogue seems cut and paste from a thousand different sources. You can almost mouth the words along with the actors, they’re so familiar.
Stephen Baldwin takes his stock character and goes nowhere with it. Perhaps the crackle and pizzazz of a stronger actor might have been able to get mileage out of this treadless role, but not Baldwin. True, he huffs and puffs right on cue, and spouts the necessary dialogue at the familiar times, but nowhere does he try to take the role anywhere new.
The best praise I can lay on One Tough Cop is that, as far as cookie-cutter cop dramas go, it doesn’t really make any missteps. However, it doesn’t make much of a case for going to the movies, either.