Directed by Dax Shepard
Starring Dax Shepard, Michael Pena, Jessica McNamee, Vincent D’Onofrio
Based on the popular (at the time) late Seventies TV series, CHIPS follows the adventures of two officers of the Californian Highway Patrol. Pairing ex-extreme sports star John Baker (Dax Shepard), with undercover FBI agent Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Pena), they investigate a string of armed robberies that appear to be an inside job by members of the motorcycle police.
CHIPS is a failure of intention, an intellectual property no one seems sure of what to do with, but the knowledge that there was some brand recognition makes it too tempting to leave alone. As such CHIPS attempts to follow the 21 Jump Street (2012) path, and gets lost along the way. It’s a film that frankly doesn’t know what it wants to be, except that maybe it doesn’t want to be called homophobic (although it really is – we’ll revisit that in a moment). The result is a horribly mangled film, that is unsure where it wants to land on the scale of action comedy, or even what sort of comedy it wants to be. Tonally unsure of itself CHIPS veers wildly from extreme to extreme, with loosely linked scenes and a piecemeal script. There is no sense of pacing, plot, or even much sense of causality.
CHIPS is at its worst when it does delve into those areas of gross out comedy. If there was some message it was trying to communicate then the jokes would at least have some purpose. Instead it feels mean spirited, with a toxic sense of machismo that comes across as homophobic and misogynistic. There is even a moment of deluded “self-realisation” as the film tries to excuse this behaviour as not homophobic, as it is not making fun of anyone that is actually gay – just seeing any homosexual acts as derisive, and due mockery. Staggering that something like that could fly in the 21st century.
Characterisation is equally lacking here. Shepard and Pena have little to work with in terms of characters. There’s some brief stab at giving them some extra depth, by saying that they are both suffering from addiction (painkillers and sex addiction – respectively), but this seems like a muddleheaded attempt to thoughtlessly mine yet another taboo for comedy, rather than a genuine flaw. D’Onofrio is serviceable as a street tough corrupt cop, but even his mighty heart doesn’t seem to be in it by the climax.
The occasional passable action sequences that borrow heavily from much better films (including Ozploitation classics Stone and Mad Max) is the best we can hope for here. Even then the action often feels cheaply produced, with many crashes happening off camera. All up, this is a wreck of a film. Heed the hazard lights, and just steer clear.