As always, Spoiler Alert
I’m a terrible Canadian. I don’t like maple syrup, or bacon, or Tim Horton’s.
I’m also not a huge fan of Canadian movies. I’m sure a lot of that stems from the fact that I wasn’t allowed to watch them while growing up. My mother hated them because, “They’re just a bunch of swearing,” and so they were banned. But to be honest, once I got out from under that ban and started watching Canadian films, I discovered that they, on a whole, aren’t for me. See, in order to secure Canadian funding, Canadian films have to contain Canadian themes, and one of the favourite Canadian themes of all time is the strain between Quebec and the rest of the country. Especially Ontario.
Bet you’ll never guess what the first Bon Cop Bad Cop is about!
I grew up in Ontario – in and around Ottawa, in fact, which is ground zero for Canada’s anti-Quebec sentiment. Or at least it was. I should mention that my experiences are from the 1980s and ’90s, during Quebec’s seemingly never ending push to be recognized as a Distinct Society, enactment of the French language laws, and referendums to determine whether or not to become an independent country from Canada. For years, it felt like Quebec’s disaffection was the only story the news covered and the only thing anyone talked about, and it was exhausting.
So, too, were the attitudes of many of the Ottawans I knew in response to it all. My parents were both viciously anti-Quebec. Resentment towards workplace bilingual language requirements were high. During the referendums, there were plenty of calls to beat Quebec to the punch and kick them out of the country. About the only positive thing anyone had to say about Quebec was that its bars, which were a short drive across a bridge, were open until 2am, whereas in Ottawa, they closed at one.
In the original Bon Cop Bad Cop, the animosity between francophones and anglophones is played up to an extreme. The main characters are David Bouchard (Partick Huard), a Quebec cop, and Martin Ward (Colm Feore), an Ontario cop, who are forced to work on a murder case together because the body is found lying across the Ontario/Quebec border. The stereotypically disorderly Bouchard, and the equally stereotypically uptight Ward, can’t stand each other, and their constant sniping at each other that stems from the acrimony between the two provinces is grating – mainly because I grew up listening to that sort of rhetoric on a loop, so I don’t find it particularly entertaining.
Oh, and the murder they’re investigating? Turns out it’s a serial killer who’s targeting hockey executives because of rumours that one of Canada’s teams is going to move to the U.S. None of the teams, executives, or players portrayed exist in real life, but they’re clear parodies of actual organizations and people, and the film’s background story hearkens back to when Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings and the national furor that ensued.
So yeah, my hockey-hating heart is not a big fan of Bon Cop Bad Cop.
Bon Cop Bad Cop 2, on the other hand …
Released 11 years after the first film, the sequel is a pretty decent reflection of the softening of relations between French and English Canadians. That’s not to say that there isn’t still tension, but these days it’s more of the political variety than personal. (Although in this case, I should mention that I’ve been living in Nova Scotia for over 20 years, and Nova Scotians are too busy hating on Ontario to spend much energy on Quebec. Perhaps my perceptions would be different if I was still in Ottawa.)
When Bouchard and Ward’s paths cross for a second time and they find themselves once again on the same case, they work with each other rather than against, and the insults they sling are more of the tongue-in-cheek, good natured variety, with no real vitriol behind them. More time is spent on the story as opposed to interpersonal conflict. And the main characters, at least, are less cultural stereotypes and more well-rounded people.
Plus, I’m not gonna lie. I like how the film doesn’t mock francophones and anglophones, and instead takes some time to ridicule a new and, in my opinion, more worthy target: Americans.
Ultimately, the biggest strength of the Bon Cop Bad Cop films is the actors. Colm Feore has always been a favourite of mine, and Patrick Huard is as charming as all get-out, and the two of them play extremely well off of each other. I also love the flow and interplay between Canada’s two official languages, and how people will transition from English to French and back again without missing a beat.
And speaking of language, my mother was right. There is a metric fuckton of swearing in both Bon Cop Bad Cop movies.
Unlike her, though, I don’t consider that a negative. On the contrary, it brings back memories of high school, when we discovered that we could shout, “Tabarnak!” with impunity at each other because our teachers either didn’t know it’s a swear word, or didn’t care. (It was probably a 50/50 split.) I even ventured to say it at home once or twice, and got away with it, because my parents had no idea I was swearing. And now, after I watch a Bon Cop Bad Cop movie, I find myself sliding back into old habits and muttering it under my breath a lot for a few days.
Et pour ça, je dis … Vive le Quebec!
To see other posts in my venture to watch my movie collection in alphabetical(ish) order, click here.