I had the pleasure of attending the 35th Image+Nation Culture Queer film festival this past November, and the event’s closing film exceeded my wildest expectations in every way imaginable. Allow me to preface this review by saying that this was my first time attending an event that showcased LGBTQ+ media in this manner, and it was an enlightening experience to view such an incredible selection of films highlighting the types of stories that I am not often exposed to, especially through an intersectional, cross-cultural lens.
On November 27th, the festival closed with Cop Secret, a buddy cop film directed by filmmaker and former Icelandic national soccer team goalkeeper, Hannes Halldórsson. The film blends the action and comedy of a traditional buddy cop film with a love story between two of Iceland’s finest policemen – one of whom is openly pansexual, and the other of whom is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and break out of his current heterosexual relationship. Aside from its impressive and eloquent ability to break boundaries within the buddy cop genre, Cop Secret is simply a wonderfully entertaining film to watch. Its dry, snappy humor kept the audience laughing throughout the film, and its charming characters and romantic subplot added layer upon layer of subtle yet nuanced multidimensionality.
Aside from its impressive and eloquent ability to break boundaries within the buddy cop genre, Cop Secret is simply a wonderfully entertaining film to watch.
The film’s main character, Bussi, played by Auðunn Blöndal, is a fantastic lead. Although audiences have a general sense of where his storyline is going, Blöndal never overplays his hand, acting with poise and comedic grace. This subtlety within Bussi’s character is perfectly offset by his partner, Hörður, played by Egill Einarsson, whose outgoing personality and fitness background allow his character to thrive as the personable, charismatic member of the cop duo. Between Cop Secret’s wonderful comic relief characters, its intentionally over-the-top villain Rikki, and its inspirational subplots, the film captivates viewers with ease. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it also does not ignore the important thematic undertones of representation and the uprooting of cliches.
To me, the buddy cop genre is somewhat of an overdone genre. Oftentimes, the films are just too formulaic and the comedy ends up being more slapstick than I would hope for – and don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with watching a laid-back slapstick comedy. In fact, I often find myself turning on a 21 Jump Street-style movie so I can relax and laugh for a couple of hours. What I really loved about Cop Secret, however, was that it packed in all of the humor of a more traditional Hollywood-type buddy cop film but also all of the nuance of a more carefully-written, formula-breaking film.
One aspect of the film that I found especially humorous was the antagonist’s English dialogue. Rikki is the complete package for a buddy cop villain, and his brazen, outlandish English lines contrast the witty and snarky Icelandic lines of the rest of the cast. Small cinematic choices like this one were the cherry on top of an already well-composed film.
What I really loved about Cop Secret, however, was that it packed in all of the humor of a more traditional Hollywood-type buddy cop film but also all of the nuance of a more carefully-written, formula-breaking film.
A film can be great for a variety of reasons. Obviously, film is a very subjective art medium, and the proverbial “audience” is a moving target. To some, cinematography might be the most important element of filmmaking; to some, it might be the writing or the plot; and to some, it might be the acting. I think it depends on the movie, which is certainly a bit of a cop-out answer (no pun intended), but it truly is difficult to compare movies across genres, and to a degree, even within the same genre. Even if a film doesn’t have the cinematographic quality of a film like The Godfather, it can still execute its cinematography to perfection. Cop Secret stood out to me on account of its sophisticated joke set-ups and deliveries and its feel-good storyline – the film more than holds its own in terms of cinematography, score, and set design.
The film festival was a deeply enjoyable experience and I would highly recommend both viewing the fantastic films and attending next year’s event, especially for those who are not usually exposed to LGBTQ+ films. Attending this event showed me unique perspectives and afforded me the opportunity to see several films that I would not have discovered otherwise.
Some of my other favorite films featured in the festival were Kamil Krawczycki’s Elephant (Slon) and Jason Karman’s Golden Delicious. The festival was also an opportunity to meet some great creators and festival team members, and I will definitely be making my way back next year. I would highly recommend watching Cop Secret if you can, and of course, I would also recommend attending the Image+Nation film festival next year, as well as other local film events that showcase smaller-scale productions, as they provide a great way to broaden one’s cultural horizons.
Special thanks to Danny Payne and the Image+Nation team for making this article possible.