The 411 Movies Top 5 3.28.14: Top 5 Cop Movies
Posted by Shawn S. Lealos on 03.28.2014
From Die Hard and Lethal Weapon to Hot Fuzz, Magnum Force, Raid: the Redemption and more, the 411 staff counts down their top five cop movies of all time!
Welcome to Week 419 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.
The 411mania writers were given the following instructions: Cop Movies - We are talking about movies where the police are the major characters (does not include PI movies or movies about the bad guys, unless the bad guys are cops)
Honorable Mentions: Die Hard (1988), Robocop (1987), Cobra (1986), Red Heat (1988), Tango & Cash (1989), The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), Hot Fuzz (2007), Stone Cold (1991), Short Time (1990)
5. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Originally slated to be a full on action flick starring Sylvester Stallone, Beverly Hills Cop was turned into a comedy once Eddie Murphy got involved. While the movie does have its share of action scenes (the opening tractor trailer chase and the shootout at the end) the thing people remember about the movie is Murphy's smart ass Detroit detective Axel Murphy making fun of the by-the-book Beverly Hills police department and just owning every scene he's in. Think of the warehouse scene where Foley poses as a customs agent and threatens someone with an IRS audit ("crawl up your fucking ass with a microscope" is a classic line). And the scene in the museum with Bronson Pinchot's "Serge." And who could forget the hotel scene where Foley scams a big room because of racism? Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, and Ronny Cox will live on as Rosewood, Taggart, and Bogomil (and because of this movie I still refer to Jonathan Banks as "Cus." He will be "Cus" forever).
4. 48 Hrs. (1982)
Walter Hill's best movie is also the movie that got the modern buddy cop comedy thing off the ground, which is weird because the movie only features one cop, Inspector Jack Cates (Nick Nolte). Eddie Murphy's Reggie Hammond isn't a cop, he's a jailed criminal allowed out on a "weekend pass" to help Cates track down two of Hammond's old criminal buddies, escaped convict Albert Ganz (James Remar) and Billy Bear (Sonny Landham). I have no idea why Cates is allowed to be a cop as he has absolutely no respect for anyone or anything (he throws away a parking ticket and he yells at his boss). But then, since the San Francisco depicted in the movie is a rough place I guess a cop like Cates is what the city needs to keep things in check. It's also kind of weird that Cates would be allowed to have a partner that's also a convict. I mean, how often is that kind of thing allowed in San Francisco? 48 Hrs.'s sequel Another 48 Hrs. is pretty good, too, so be sure to check that out in the event you're looking for something worthwhile to watch. You can never go wrong with 48 Hrs..
3. Lethal Weapon (1987)
In terms of the buddy cop movie Lethal Weapon is probably the movie people think of. You have the old cop just about ready to retire (Sgt. Roger Murtaugh, as played by Danny Glover) and his new partner, the suicidal scumbum badass (Sgt. Martin Riggs, as played by Mel Gibson). They don't really like one another (Murtaugh is worried that Riggs is going to get him killed) but they eventually bond and come together to fight off the evil drug running mercenaries that are running rampant in Los Angeles. Three sequels followed, each one of them their own kind of awesome, and every so often someone floats the idea of either a part five or a reboot. I'd rather see a part five. I can't imagine how anyone could recreate the chemistry between Gibson and Glover. I mean, what would be the point of a new team?
2. Maniac Cop 2 (1990)
Written by the great Larry Cohen and directed by the Bill Lustig, Maniac Cop 2 is one of the greatest sequels of all time. The movie stars Robert Davi as a badass cop who, while investigating a serial murderer, finds out that believed dead cop, Matt Cordell (Robert Z'Dar), is still very much alive and still looking for revenge. See, Cordell was one of the best cops the NYPD had until he was railroaded into prison by corrupt police officials and city politicians. He was then attacked in prison, brutally stabbed and left for dead. But then, somehow, Cordell came back as a kind of monster cop hell bent on getting revenge (and helping criminals out along the way because it's ironic). At the end of the first Maniac Cop Cordell was sort of killed, but he somehow came back as more of a zombie cop still looking for revenge. Maniac Cop2 is just a brilliant action horror movie that's absolutely terrifying (a killer cop? How is that not scary?). If you haven't seen it, good God see it now. It's worth it.
1. Magnum Force (1973)
The first sequel to the classic Dirty Harry exists as a kind of further explanation of the Inspector Harry "Dirty Harry" Callahan character. At the end of Dirty Harry Callahan is a badass, take no prisoners kind of cop. He doesn't take shit from people and he has absolutely no problem shooting down the bad guys. In Magnum Force Callahan is a little more mellow, a little more level headed. He's still a take no prisoners badass, but he's not the fascist psycho that he's been labeled as. The psychos are the vigilante bike cops led by Hal Holbrook's Lt. Briggs. Yes, the vigilante cops kill off the bad guys, but they also have no problem killing fellow cops that get in their way (poor McCoy as played by Mitch Ryan. Did he really deserve to die?). To Callahan that's bullshit. As he explains to Briggs towards the end of the movie Callahan isn't a fan of the current judicial system, but it's the only one in the world has that makes any sense. No man has the absolute right to be judge, jury, and executioner. Think about what Callahan says several times throughout the movie, the movie's catchphrase of sorts. "A man's got to know his limitations." Dirty Harry isn't a psycho.
Honorable Mentions: Since we're given a free reign for this week's topic, I kinda went for a specific Top 5 to do with Cops and Police but I really love The Departed, The Untouchables, Seven, End Of Watch, 21 Jump Street, The Naked Gun Trilogy, Cobra and Robocop.
5. Tango & Cash
Buddy cop action films are usually average but I've picked out this beauty to celebrate some of the craziness. In Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone's only team up, Tango & Cash is a wonderfully entertaining albeit sadly forgotten film with a straight, white collar, prim & proper cop called Tango mixing it up and partnered with one of his rivals in the LAPD, the streetwise and experimental Cash. Spawned as a clone from the uber-successful Lethal Weapon, you can see the elements of that action with a dash of comedy drama being played up to, but with tonnes of excess. I mean this is a film which ends with a Robot Wars like demolition derby on a construction site between earth movers and monster trucks. Also there's great joy to be had from completely random events shovelled in and the explanation is "just deal with it", like the glorious scene where Cash fires off a shot from A GUN BOOT - yes, a gun built into his boot. Glorious stuff.
4. Lethal Weapon
I imagine a problem with all police forces you maybe tied together with people whose values you're not a fan of. The start of buddy cop action-comedy classic Lethal Weapon sees LAPD detective Sgt. Murtaugh contemplating his retirement and being "too old for this shit" forced to partner up with strung out, mourning & crazy Sgt. Riggs with consequences. Whilst 48 Hrs was one of the original buddy cop flicks in western cinema, Lethal Weapon is one of the best with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover's engrossing duo of hate turning to love and developing a genuine bond between them, especially after the ringer they go through here. I don't rate the later outings of the duo as Joe Pesci really detracts from the good work I want to see in Murtaugh and Riggs' relationship and the comedy elements are ramped up too much, but the original is borderline perfection as a top action film done relatively straight in a genre usually with imperfections.
3. The Raid: Redemption
Similar to the next entry on my list, the police of most countries are trained and/or equipped to take on most situations and to succeed. In the case of The Raid: Redemption, just a handful of Indonesian SWAT members are leftover after a badly botched operation when they try and takedown a crime lord in the top floor of a crime infested residential tower block. The problem is, the mission is off the official police books so there's no chance of any back up. Cue the best action film in years. I'm still more than happy to champion this. There's such a range of quality action sequences, it's enough for a trilogy of films alone. The Raid: Redemption features such joys as martial arts fights to the death, a fridge rocket launcher at point blank range, a goon jumping down from a higher level and being speared out of a window without touching the floor... I could go on, but between this and the sequel out this week, expand your mind and sample Gareth Evans' finest pieces of work in action cinema.
2. Die Hard
With police, they're trained I guess to deal with whatever situation they find themselves in. Nobody ever really thinks of that when they think of Die Hard. The start of the continuing misfortunes of John McClane in extraordinary situations is an example of this. Think about it; John tries to gain outside support from an impossible situation, he analyses the threat involved (little things like counting how many terrorists there are via radio chats), puts his body on the line to protect people in any means necessary, doing anything to quash the threat... it's all in there if you look hard enough. Away from that, Die Hard is still one of, if not, THE best damn action movies of all time with Bruce Willis' McClane locked in an inescapable skyscrapper, against a bunch of ruthless foreign terrorists. If you haven't seen it yet, sort yourself out.
1. Hot Fuzz
Fun fact about the UK Police - the law against impersonating police officers is pretty damn strict over here. So much in fact that me and my buddy got a big dressing down by a couple of coppers on a night out for dressing up as Nick Frost and Simon Pegg from this little gem. The thing is with Hot Fuzz, you're not just seeing one of the best comedies ever. This is probably the most accurate the British Police has ever been portrayed in films in terms of uniforms, procedural and cars amongst other things. In so spot on it's unreal. I don't know if there are issues with clearance with British Police services to prevent more happening as there's usually never films dedicated to big uniformed officers like we get here.
Anyway, I don't really think there isn't anything I can say that hasn't before, except for Hot Fuzz is one of those endlessly rewatchable comedy films with new lines always being found on every viewing by me. Edgar Wright's second big screen film in the 'Blood & Cornetto' Trilogy is actually a decent action film too with the big city super cop struggling to adapt to a quieter country life. Essential.
Shawn S. Lealos
5. L.A. Confidential
Based on the amazing sprawling novel by James Ellroy, one of the finest crime writers of our time, comes a movie that did just about everything right. The movie starred Russell Crowe as the cop who will do anything to stop the criminals, even breaking the law himself, Guy Pearce as the good cop who is too morally superior to be sympathetic, Kevin Spacey as the glory hound cop who loves to get his face on the news, Danny DeVito as the journalist who makes Hollywood crime almost a celebrity in itself, and Kim Basinger as a very sexy Femme Fatale. The movie was a masterpiece, but lost out to the juggernaut that was Titanic. L.A. Confidential was the superior movie that year.
4. Die Hard
This movie changed how cop movies were made in the 80s. Instead of guys like Arnold, Sly or Dolph Lundgren, we got a smaller, normal looking, Bruce Willis (fresh off a comedy TV show). The thing is, Bruce Willis made being the hero look easy and we bought into him, despite not looking like a Hollywood action hero. Plus, Hans Gruber is the greatest villain in any cop movie throughout the history of cinema.
3. Super Troopers
This movie makes me laugh every time I watch it. Broken Lizard are comical genius' and it is all about their timing. Honestly, in lesser hands, the comedy in this movie might not work, but with the Lizard boys, it is masterful. The movie follows the Lizard guys as State Troopers who are in danger of a budget cut and find themselves competing with the local police department. This results in pranks, one-upmanship, and outright fist fights at times. Soon the Troopers learn of a drug smuggling ring and set out to prove themselves. It's a very funny movie and one that I enjoy watching any time I see it on.
2. Lethal Weapon
This is one of the best buddy cop movies of all time. Mel Gibson is at his best in the first movie as a depressed cop with suicidal tendencies and Danny Glover is great as the older cop who just wants to finish out his tenure and retire. Together, they are a perfect match. The later movies in the series get a little too goofy at times, but this first movie is serious work, with Gibson on the edge and a great bad guy role for Gary Busey. This is the movie that made writer Shane Blake the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood, and he deserved every penny.
1. Hot Fuzz
It is a love letter to Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys II and Point Break, and it is just as good – if not better – than them all. Hot Fuzz was Edgar Wright's follow-up movie to Shaun of the Dead and is just about a perfect buddy cop movie. It has the laughs needed, the gore and violence necessary, and a perfect leading duo in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The story sees Pegg's super cop transferred to a small country town because he is making the other police officers look bad (in a great scene with Bill Nighy, Steve Coogan and Martin Freeman). He then arrives in town to meet the Inspector (Jim Broadbent) and his son Danny (Frost), the latter of which becomes his closest friend. As the movie goes on, Nicholas Angel figures out that the high accident rate in the town may not be accidents after all. I will be honest with you – I have seen this movie close to 50 times since it came out – seriously. It is brilliant and it never gets old.