July 16, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Cop Out (now on DVD) is a lame rip-off of other buddy-cop flicks. Instead of trashing it again, our critic has a five-tip plan for goosing the old genre.

1. Black and white has shades of gray
Ever since 48 HRS., teaming ebony and ivory has become a crutch for hacks out to score cheap laughs. But back in 1967, In the Heat of the Night proved that race could be mined for more than punchlines, as Sidney Poitier’s Philly detective and Rod Steiger’s redneck sheriff solve a murder in the South.

2. Babes can be badass, too
In a genre that too often oozes misogyny, women tend to be relegated to the role of eye candy. That’s why 1999’s underrated The Bone Collector stands out: Angelina Jolie does the dirty work (and it does get dirty) for her paralyzed partner (Denzel Washington in Rear Window mode).

3. Partners don’t have to be human
No, we’re not talking about Turner & Hooch, but 1988’s Alien Nation — a totally bizarre sci-fi procedural where a hotheaded James Caan (like there’s any other kind) rides shotgun with an ET cop who has a noggin shaped like a ripe casaba melon.

4. Over-the-top death scenes never hurt
Shooting bad guys is easy, but killing them in a way you’ll remember long after the end credits isn’t. Our pick? Hands down, it’s gotta be Lethal Weapon 2‘s giddy, gruesome nail-gun scene.

5. Acknowledge genre conventions, then tweak them
In 2007’s Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright did for the buddy-cop genre what he did for zombies in Shaun of the Dead, merrily milking the wheeziest formulas for pants-wetting laughs. Just ask ”Crockett and Tubby.”

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