Back in the 1980s, films like Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours were instrumental in the creation and popularization of the modern buddy cop comedy, and ever since, countless other releases — from Rush Hour to 21 Jump Street — have built franchises off of the appeal of a mismatched pair of do-gooders who bicker just as often as they take down the criminal element. It’s with this history in its rearview that Puerto Ricans in Paris must contend, as it attempts to provide its own take on the tried-and-true broad appeal that the buddy cop genre has cultivated over the past 30 years.
The film stars character actor Luis Guzmán — who also produces — and Edgar Garcia (not to be confused with the mixed martial artist with whom he shares his name) as two New York City cops who are recruited to track down a stolen purse in Paris and prevent an elaborate counterfeiting scheme. Hewing closely to films like Bad Boys and Ride Along, the movie delves into the intertwined personal lives of both men, who are brothers-in-law as well as partners. This latest case comes along at a critical point in their romantic relationships with girlfriend Vanessa (Rosario Dawson) and wife Gloria (Rosie Perez), respectively, offering the chance for them to redeem themselves by the time the credits roll.
Unfortunately, that general premise has been done to death a billion times, and Puerto Ricans in Paris has nothing fresh to bring to the table, aside from a plotline that is just as silly in the actual film as it sounds. The characters of Luis and Eddie that Guzmán and Garcia play never come across as good enough in their job to be assigned to such a high-stakes case, and while the two share strong chemistry, the jokes they have to work with never land either. In many ways, Puerto Ricans in Paris feels like a long-lost 1990s buddy cop film, with all the barely-drawn characters, predicable plot beats and stereotypical humor that entails. The 82-minute runtime is even padded out with a few pointless montage sequences, which is clear evidence of just how lacking in substance the story at hand really is.
The most memorable aspects of the film are its ladies, who barely even have a presence. As the significant others of Luis and Eddie, Rosario Dawson and Rosie Perez are clearly slumming it here, likely drawn in by the film’s worthwhile aspirations to put Latin American characters front and center. However, their characters are so vaguely defined that Puerto Ricans in Paris does a great disservice to both actresses, who do the very best they can with thankless supporting roles that position them as the unsatisfying better halves of the two leads. Alice Taglioni too is charming but wasted as the designer whose company’s future depends on Luis and Eddie solving the case. The actress — who calls to mind Inglourious Basterds star Mélanie Laurent — serves as the fulcrum on which much of the film’s mystery hangs, but her character is so underdeveloped that even she cannot salvage the subpar screenplay.
With so many other buddy cop films out there, Puerto Ricans in Paris stands out as one of the laziest attempts in recent memory. The film doesn’t bring much in the way of laughs or action, and when current releases like The Nice Guys are still being made and doing both so well, there’s little reason that a viewer hungry for this kind of story should opt for Puerto Ricans in Paris. First-time director Ian Edelman doesn’t instill much faith in viewers with this maiden voyage, and the film’s stale screenplay gives the impression that the project was designed more as a starring vehicle for Garcia — who appeared on Edelman’s short-lived TV series How to Make It in America — rather than a cohesive film in and of itself.
Although Puerto Ricans in Paris could have been one of the few buddy cop films to feature two Latin American leads, its poor storytelling (complete with a cliche-ridden series of “twists”) and tired fish-out-of-water setup essentially throw that possibility away with little regard either for the talent of its cast or the time of viewers who decide to spend the time to take the trip presented in Puerto Ricans in Paris.
This by-the-numbers buddy cop film offers little in the way of laughs or suspense, proving to be nothing more than a missed opportunity for its cast and crew to present a worthy addition to the genre.