When Bon Cop, Bad Cop was first released in 2006, it didn’t necessarily seem like a surefire hit.
Canadian films don’t typically perform well at the box office. English-language films in particular fare poorly.
Canadian cinema is mostly known for documentaries and art house exports. So when a dark, bilingual buddy cop action-comedy became the highest-grossing Canadian film ever, people took notice.
On Sept. 25, the University of Winnipeg’s department of criminal justice will be presenting “Bon Cop, Bad Cop: Canadianizing the Buddy Cop Film,” a lecture by University of Toronto Institute of Technology professor Dr. Andrea Braithwaite. The lecture promises to explore the French-English divide highlighted by the film’s comedy.
Braithwaite, whose research usually examines gendered and sexual discourses in pop culture, says her initial interest in Bon Cop, Bad Cop wasn’t all that academic.
“I just have a soft spot for buddy cop movies,” Braithwaite admits. “Analyzing Canadian media wasn’t something I intended to do. I stumbled into it as a teaching appointment while doing my master’s degree, and I loved it. Whether it’s film, television or music, that type of analysis is my academic hobby, if such a thing exists.”
Braithwaite’s first time seeing Bon Cop, Bad Cop struck a nerve with her love of the buddy cop genre. But it also provided insight into Canada’s bilingual and multicultural identity beyond the onscreen comedy.
“I saw it in theatres twice when it first came out, once in Montreal and once in Toronto. They were two entirely different spectator experiences.”
Braithwaite says the two screenings exemplified the cultural divide examined in the film.
“The Montreal theatre was packed and it wasn’t even opening weekend,” Braithwaite explains. “It was very communal, with lots of laughter. Toronto was maybe a third full. There wasn’t the same kind or amount of laughs. People didn’t seem to enjoy it in the same way.”
The film’s nearly $13 million box-office gross was, in Braithwaite’s opinion, fueled by the divide evidenced in those screenings.
“I think what helped the film’s success is how it takes the idea of the two solitudes, which there’s a long history of, and rewrites the US buddy cop film as a story of two solitudes,” Braithwaite says. “The genre is usually a way to explore bumbling American race relations.”
The bilingual and cross-cultural approach of Bon Cop, Bad Cop isn’t the only thing making the film a rarity. It’s also one of Canada’s few successful popcorn films in a country that rarely excels in pop genre cinema.
“That wasn’t always the case,” Braithwaite explains. “There were ‘the shelter years’, when companies could give money to support film production. Basically, they funded schlocky B movies for tax rebates. Porky’s [the previous record holder for highest-grossing Canadian film] comes out of that period.”
Braithwaite thinks the current Canadian media landscape, which largely lacks that type of pop cinema, could learn something from Bon Cop, Bad Cop.
“Canadians have a tendency to believe our media is culturally superior to or smarter than the US,” Braithwaite says. “We think it’s deeper or more high-brow. Then we go out and see those American genre pictures. It’s a love-hate relationship and it’s a shame. We could use more Canadian genre films.”
Dr. Braithwaite’s lecture is on Sept. 25 and runs 12:30-1:30pm in room 2M70.