BFI Flare Film Festival 2022 Review: Cop Secret

Icelandic action-comedy Cop Secret puts a refreshingly queer spin on the classic action film with director Hannes Thór Halldórsson showcasing a love for the genre whilst also managing to push boundaries within it. With fellow screenwriters Nína Petersen and Sverrir Thór Sverrison, Halldórsson tackles the clichés of the eighties-inspired actioner with a playful sense of camp – aided by game performances from leads Audunn Blöndal and Egill Einarsson.

Tough, no-nonsense cop Bússi (Blöndal) plays by his own rules and is a force to be reckoned with on the Reykjavík police force. After a series of heists, he is paired with his rival, the effortlessly cool Hördur (Einarsson) another cop with an esteemed reputation. The jealousy between the pair soon gradually turns into a romantic chemistry whilst they attempt to take down Rikki Ferrari (Björn Hlynur Björnsson), a former catwalk comrade of ex-model Hördur turned deranged criminal mastermind.

Opening with a high octane car chase sequence featuring Bússi and his terrified partner in pursuit of an escaping criminal, amidst explosions, car-stunts and moments of heightened peril (e.g. a child in the backseat of the car), it’s clear that former Icelandic goalkeeper turned director Halldórsson has a love of the action movie. With obvious budget conditions, Cop Secret manages to present action scenes with a certain degree of polish whilst simultaneously packing the ridiculous over-the-top quality of so many genre favourites – think literally anything released by The Cannon Group’s Golan-Globus era. An eighties-inspired synthy score from Kristján Sturla Bjarnason fully transports us into the genre and even though the film is set in present day, it fits the high-octane nature aptly.

Yet an action pastiche only goes so far and thankfully Cop Secret’s main hook is the original relationship between its two macho protagonists. Beginning as an odd-couple type dynamic: sexually-repressed Bússi is hot-headed and scrappy navigating a faltering relationship with his girlfriend, whilst Hördur is the immaculately dressed, suave pansexual, fully at ease with his own identity. This dynamic is initially one in which both men attempt to out-do one another with their disregard for the rules and their colourful style of delivering justice. However, fantasies soon rear their head with Bússi’s repression captured in raunchy dreams centred around his new work partner.

As Cop Secret leans into the romance element, Halldórsson handles it well. It is not a punchline, but an impressive slice of gay representation in the action genre. Of course there is camp by the bucketload, yet that is mostly channelled in the villainous English-speaking Rikki Ferrari – played with a playful scenery-chewing turn by Björn Hlynur Björnsson. Interestingly, Cop Secret incorporates a surprising bloody action aesthetic and whilst satirising the classic action film, also provides some genuine grisly action spectacle in its own right. Director of Photography Elli Cassata shoots the city in the guise of a crime-filled hot-boiled locale, playfully subverting the clean and welcoming stereotypes that Reykjavík naturally evokes.

As Cop Secret leans into the romance angle, it really finds its stride. Audunn Blöndal and Egill Einarsson are a joy to watch and have a natural on-screen chemistry (with both performers also contributing to the film’s story development). Blöndal plays Bússi refreshingly against type, showing a gay action hero just as tough as any John McClane or Jason Bourne, whilst Einarsson (aka Iceland’s DJ MuscleBoy) captures the suave liberal alternative to his partner. Subplots involving attempted blackmail and the suppression of the relationship, add some light emotive depth amidst the action spectacle and high stakes plot.

Rooted in love for the genre which it pokes fun at Cop Secret, delightfully shows that there is room for gay action heroes and we hope to see plenty more after this with Bússi and Hördur’s story being ripe for a sequel.

Cop Secret plays at the 2022 BFI Flare Festival. Screening details are available here.

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