Say what you will about Kevin Smith's seesaw career, he's far better off directing his own scripts.

All the proof you need came via “Cop Out,” the 2010 buddy action comedy known today for Smith’s withering assessment of the film’s co-lead, Bruce Willis.

Smith didn’t write this mess, but couldn’t he have inserted a few of his patented rants into the movie? Or, at least, realize he has no business directing an action sequence and let someone else take the gig?

 

“Cop Out” stars Willis and Tracy Morgan as Jimmy and Paul, two long-time New York police officers coping with personal issues. Jimmy is trying to pay for his daughter’s elaborate wedding but is short on funds. He decides to sell a valuable baseball card to foot the bill, but the card gets stolen by a gangster.

Paul thinks his wife (Rashida Jones) is cheating on him, even though he doesn’t have a lick of proof.

Their personal peccadilloes take a back seat to professional woes when an assignment goes awry and they’re both suspended from the force. That doesn’t stop them from trying to track down the Mexican gangster who swiped Jimmy’s card.

Audiences know they’re in trouble during the opening sequence in which Paul interrogates a suspect by throwing movie lines at him. It’s not funny, but one meta-joke arrives to save the day. Paul quotes “Die Hard” and Smith cuts to Jimmy who claims he never heard of that movie.

What should have been a slam dunk laugh is botched by Willis. It’s arguably the only sly joke in the film, and they blew it.

“Cop Out” is so lazy it’s a miracle anyone – let alone two scribes (the brother team of Mark and Robb Cullen) – took screenwriting credit. Need an example of the alleged wit on display? Consider Paul discussing his bowel movements.

“I set records with my s*** turds,” he brags.

Who says they don’t write ‘em like they used to?

So, is “Cop Out” an ’80s buddy movie homage? Sure, it trots out some of the genre’s cliches, like the frustrated boss chewing out our heroes and a synth rock soundtrack courtesy of Harold Faltermeyer.

But it’s not a parody, nor is it funny enough to stand tall next to “48 Hours” or “Beverly Hills Cop.” And the action is stiff and uninteresting, proving once more Smith needs to stick close to his skill set – potty-mouthed pop culture riffs in the hands of his rep company.

What’s most galling about “Cop Out” is its utter lack of ideas. What motivated them to write these characters, or pitch this story around Hollywood and cast still-marketable actors as the leads?

Morgan dons a cell phone outfit during one sequence, and in the next scene he’s in his boss’s office – still wearing the costume. Why? And why did anyone think it was funny in the first place?

Later, a scene’s sole comic highlight involves Morgan eating nachos while a suspect spills her guts.

It’s hard to figure out Morgan’s screen persona at this point in his career. He’s a man child, alternately sweet and sexual, but there’s nothing clever or compelling about anything he does. At least twice the camera catches Morgan with spittle dangling from his mouth. Is that part of the shtick? Given the actor’s recent medical woes this may be a lingering part of his screen resume, which is a shame.

The film briefly comes to life when Seann William Scott appears as a hapless house burglar. He drives Jimmy and Paul to distraction by mimicking what they say, a comic conceit older than Henny Youngman and Bob Hope combined.

His poorly written extended cameo is the highlight of the film.

“Cop Out’s” final scene lingers for what feels like forever, and when the film shows us the reason why -it’s yet another stale gag – you wonder why they even bothered?

The same can be said of the rest of the movie.

DID YOU KNOW: Kevin Smith didn’t just slam Bruce Willis in the “Cop Out” fall out. He besieged film critics for how they reviewed the film. ‘Was it called “Schindler’s Cop Out”? Writing a nasty eview [sic] for #CopOut is akin to bullying a retarded kid who was getting a couple chuckles from the normies by singing AFTERNOON DELIGHT.

BONUS: Here’s Smith sharing an in-depth look at working with Willis on “Cop Out” that’s more enjoyable than the actual film.