There is much riding on the launch of Bon Cop Bad Cop.
When actor Patrick Huard first came up with the notion of creating a cop action-comedy along the lines of 48 Hours or Rush Hour, he just thought it would make for a light, entertaining movie. But on the eve of its release, many in the film industry are hoping - probably even praying - that the bilingual made-in-Quebec flick will be the film to achieve that rarest of feats: to pull in big bucks at the box office on both sides of the country's linguistic divide.
Bon Cop Bad Cop opens across Quebec tomorrow night. Most industry watchers figure it will do well in la belle province, given Huard's star status and the film's likeable blend of laughs and high-octane crime thrills.
But the bigger hurdle will be convincing moviegoers in the rest of the country (where it opens Aug. 18) to pay their hard-earned bucks to see a film half in French that explores the relationship between an uptight anglo cop from Ontario and his foul-mouthed, free-wheeling Quebecois counterpart. Martin Ward (Colm Feore) and David Bouchard (Huard) are reluctant partners investigating a series of murders related to a professional hockey league not unlike the NHL.
Canadians outside Quebec tend to shun homegrown films, with local flicks accounting for less than one per cent of the box office total. Moviegoers in other provinces are just as cool to Quebec films, a fact underlined in the spring when the Maurice Richard biopic The Rocket tanked in English Canada despite a major promotional push.
But in interviews at the St. James Hotel just hours before the star-studded local premiere of Bon Cop on Monday night, the folks associated with the film were having none of this talk about how the movie might save Canadian cinema.
"I hope the film serves, if nothing else, as a public service announcement for those anglos who want to know what the hell French people are saying when they swear," said too-talented, Stratford, Ont.-based Feore. "If you get 'mon calisse' and 'tabarnak' straight, then you've learned something, which is really, I think, an accomplishment for your tax dollars. On the other hand, f--- 'em, if they can't take a joke. It's meant to be an entertainment."
The unique twist with Bon Cop Bad Cop is that it is as bilingual as a federal advertising campaign. There is as much French as English dialogue, and there are plenty of conversations that zing back and forth between the country's two official languages, just like those you hear every day on the streets of Montreal. That's something almost never heard in Canadian film or television.
Huard doesn't see why audiences in Toronto and Montreal can't like the same movie, quite rightly noting that Harry Potter, to take one example, seems to play just fine on both sides of the Quebec-Ontario border.
"I think sometimes we're not that different," Huard said.
Director Erik Canuel says he never stopped to think about whether Bon Cop Bad Cop would click with anglos and francos.
"You make a movie, you do the best you can," said Canuel, who previously directed the Quebec hits Le Survenant and Le Dernier tunnel.
Canuel, who grew up in N.D.G., said it was not particularly challenging to direct actors in two languages.
"I approached it the same way I approach Monkland Ave.," he said. "Some people speak English, some speak French."
Canuel said that people at test screenings in suburban Toronto found fast-talking Quebec comic Louis-Jose Houde, who plays an offbeat assistant coroner, totally hilarious even though they had no idea who Houde was. On the other side of the cultural fence, test audiences in Quebec loved Rick Mercer's portrayal of a redneck hockey TV commentator, who is more than a little reminiscent of a certain colourful Euro-bashing Hockey Night in Canada personality.
Canuel is happy to admit Bon Cop is built around a Hollywood formula, but with one crucial difference.
"You've never seen it with Canadian heroes before," he said. "That makes it a totally Canadian movie."
Bon Cop Bad Cop begins screening at 10 p.m. tomorrow across Quebec, and opens in the rest of Canada on Aug. 18.
Can Cop arrest anglo Canada?
The bilingual film Bon Cop Bad Cop is likely to succeed in Quebec, but on the eve of its release, the big question is whether the rest of the country will give it a chance
Canada-Québec : "un dialogue de sourds"