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‘Compadres’: A Mexican funnyman shows his action chops

Omar Chaparro (right) plays the upstanding ex-cop chasing a crime boss (Erick Elias) in “Compadres.” | PANTELION FILMS

All buddy films need conflict. The “Rush Hour” movies focus on the culture clash between an American detective and a Chinese cop. In “The Odd Couple,” it’s messy vs. neat. And in the action-comedy “Compadres,” you get a steely Mexican cop bickering with a teenage American hacker.

Once you hear the premise, you can imagine what the screenwriters will come up with. Garza, the cop, declares he doesn’t like “fat white kids.” Vic, the computer whiz, dubs the cop a “tiny Mexican man.” And so it goes, with one wisecrack following another. Is it predictable? Oh, sure. But it’s also fun, for the most part.

The action starts in Mexico, as good cop Garza (Omar Chaparro) watches his longtime partner get killed by a vicious crime boss named Santos (Erick Elias). Santos later kidnaps Garza’s pregnant girlfriend, Maria (Aislinn Derbez), and blackmails the cop to help him flee police custody.

RELATED: Joey Morgan from Chicago suburbs gets big break in ‘Compadres’

Garza, who now has been dismissed from the police force, decides the way to find Santos is through an accountant who has stolen $10 million from the criminal. Garza sneaks into the United States — in a great visual gag, he masquerades as a car seat — and hunts down the accountant, only to discover it’s 17-year-old nerd Vic (a likable Joey Morgan) who is behind the theft.

The movie then turns into a series of chases and battles, as the guys try to track down Santos while avoiding cops and thugs (including one fellow named Porky with a flamethrower). They run over the border at one point; Garza calls Vic “the first gringo to cross into Mexico without papers!” Bits like that are funny. On the other hand, it’s more gross than amusing when the movie ventures into literal toilet humor, complete with close-up of a soiled toilet bowl.

Director Enrique Begné, who helmed this year’s winsome “Busco Novio Para mi Mujer,” directs with an emphasis on action over comedy. Sometimes that feels misplaced; the stretches without laughs grow increasingly longer as the plot moves forward. But he keeps things enjoyably fast-paced, so it’s hard to complain too much.

Chaparro is a major star in Mexico and Spanish-speaking regions of the United States. He also serves as one of the movie’s producers, and the fully bilingual film feels like a vehicle designed to introduce him to Anglo audiences. He handles action scenes with gusto, but his trademark silly sense of humor is downplayed for more traditional macho posturing. Still, he’s a charismatic and commanding presence, and his interplay with Derbez and compadre Morgan can be unexpectedly moving at times.

★★★

Pantelion Films presents a film directed by Enrique Begné  and written by Ted Perkins and Gabriel Ripstein. In English, and Spanish with English subtitles. Running time: 110 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at local theaters.