Today: April 19, 2024

Cops In Movies

“Get you’re trousers on, you’re nicked.” Yes, The Sweeney is back! And they haven’t had their dinner yet. So, jump into that Blue and White Austin 1100 and join Greg Evans as he careers through a smorgasbord of film land’s best and baddest cops. Come quietly naaaw. We don’t want any trouble …

“Get
you’re trousers on, you’re nicked.” Yes, The Sweeney is back! And they haven’t
had their dinner yet. So, jump into that Blue and White Austin 1100 and join
Greg Evans as he careers through a smorgasbord of film land’s best and baddest
cops. Come quietly naaaw. We don’t want any trouble

Since the dawn of cinema, films have been obsessed
with crime. Whether it was thieves in The
Great Train Robbery
or bizarre serial killers in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, film lovers were given their
law-breaking fill from the get go. But, while making films about criminals is
terribly entertaining, occasionally those good for nothings need bringing down
to earth. Luckily, crime fighters come in many shapes and forms. And while we’d
all like Batman and Spider-Man swinging around our neighbourhoods, in reality
there are far more courageous heroes out there. Films have shown the police in
various guises in films as diverse as Robocop
to K-9 but just who were the best –
and sometimes worst – ever movie cops?

The
Lieutenant – Bad Lieutenant

Opening this list off is probably the most depraved
and disgusting portrayal of a police officer in cinematic history: Harvey Keitel in Abel Ferrera’s Bad Lieutenant. This seedy and corrupt character,
known only as The Lieutenant, is no stranger to vice. Drug addiction, gambling,
sodomy, prostitution and exploitation are just a few of his traits. However,
while investigating the rape of a nun, he begins to seek clarification and
forgiveness for his sins. Werner
Herzog’s
wacky retelling of the story, starring Nicolas Cage, showed just how truly ‘bad’ the original Lieutenant
was.

Tequila
– Hard Boiled

Shoot first, ask questions later is the mentality
that Chow Yun Fat adopts in John Woo’s action spectacular, Hard
Boiled, which follows the story of Tequila, a tough, uncompromising cop,
determined to take down a notorious mobster. Willing to fling himself across
rooms and slide down stairs, with a pair of duelling pistols in hand, Tequila
will stop at nothing till justice has been served. Full of high octane and
adrenaline-filled set pieces, Hard Boiled leaves all other action films in its
wake. The final action sequence is bonkers and breathtaking in equal measure.
No wonder it inspired Gareth Evans when
making of this years’ great action film, The
Raid
.

Alonzo
Harris – Training Day

The significance of Training Day isn’t in the film
itself, but in the small piece of history it earned. Denzel Washington won
his Best Actor Oscar and it was due to his performance as the undeniable Alonzo
Harris. Harris is a rogue narcotics agent with a unique outlook on police work.
On his first day, rookie cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan
Hawke
) is assigned to work with Harris and gets much more than he bargained
for. Intense, scary and hateful, Washington has never been so good.

Frank
Serpico – Serpico

Based upon the true story of an honest New York cop,
Serpico remains one of Al Pacino’s
most underrated performances. Frank Serpico is a good, hard working cop working
in a rotten and dishonest system. Going against the ‘code’, Serpico speaks out
against his peers and finds his status as a police officer dragged through the
mud. Sidney Lumet’s slick telling of
Serpico’s story is a poignant tribute to a good man. It also allowed Pacino to
wear some of the coolest outfits ever seen on film.

Popeye
Doyle – French Connection

Most of the cops on this list are tough, wisecracking
heroes who often go against the grain to get results. None of them do it with
quite as much gusto and ferocity as Popeye Doyle in the classic French
Connection. Gene Hackman plays the
complex Doyle whose contrasting lifestyles of crime fighting and alcoholism
serve as a metaphor for the difficulties he faces throughout this film. As he
and his partner, Buddy Russo (Roy
Scheider
) delve further into a big case, the lines between good and bad are
continuously blurred resulting in a compelling and quite exceptional piece of
filmmaking from William Freidkin.

Harry
Callahan – Dirty Harry
(Main Picture)
Over five films, Clint
Eastwood
played the iconic cop Harry Callahan. Like many cop films in the
‘70’s, Harry was a hard as nails detective with a line in catchy phrases who,
beneath the surface, is both a good man and a good cop. Of all of the
celebrated roles that Eastwood has played, non are more referenced than Dirty
Harry. This is probably because Harry was the first of a new breed of movie
police. Unafraid to cross boundaries and almost vigilante in his actions, Harry
was the forefather of all cop movies to come.

John
Shaft – Shaft

‘Who’s the black private dick that a sex machine to
all the chicks?’
‘Shaft.’
‘Who is the man that would risk his neck for his
brother man?’
‘Shaft.’
‘Who’s the cat that wont cop out when there’s danger
all about?’
’Shaft.’
‘He’s
a complicated man but no one understands him but his woman.’
‘John Shaft.’
Need we say more?

Commissioner
Jim Gordon – The Dark Knight Trilogy

For all of the amazing performances in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Gary Oldman’s take on Commissioner
Gordon may have been the most authentic and true to the original source. While
Batman can soar around Gotham and be that silent, unknown hero, the public
needs a face they can relate to and confide in. Characters like Harvey Dent and
John Blake have those qualities, but Gordon outshines them all. Oldman gives
the character a greater sense of meaning and bravery, which enabled him to
become much more than Batman’s lackey. On closer inspection, this epic story
would simply not have been possible without Jim Gordon.

John
McClane – Die Hard

In terms of 1980’s action movies, only a few have
stood the test of time. The Terminator and First Blood are good examples but, for
sheer enjoyment and originality, Die Hard still remains one of the all time
great action movies. This is mainly down to Bruce Willis as the chaotic John McClane. Always managing to find
himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, McClane constantly overcomes seemingly
impossible odds and does it with a disgruntled and generally knackered persona.
And that’s what’s endearing about this character. He never seems to want to do
the job, but he does it anyway – for the greater good.

Marge
Gunderson – Fargo

Women are poorly represented as movie police. Yet one
of the 1990’s – and maybe one of the best crime dramas so far – features a
female cop in the lead role. Joel and Ethan Coen’s masterful crime thriller,
Fargo, follows Marge Gunderson (Frances
McDormand
) as a heavily pregnant police chief, who is investigating a
grizzly roadside murder in Minneapolis. What makes Marge such a great police
officer, is her overriding honesty and general repulsion to these crimes. She
is hard and funny, like all of the cops on this list, but it is just so
refreshing to see a woman in this sort of role. She has so many qualities, that
is would be hard to reel them all off, but there is a real depth and history to
this character which remains one of the strongest elements of Fargo. McDormand
rightfully won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance, thus solidifying her
at the summit of good film police work.

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