Spoiler Warning

Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Top Ten Bad Cop Movies

The bad cop has always been a staple of crime movies. There's rarely a gangster film without bad cops being involved since it would be tough to build a criminal enterprise if every cop was doing his/her job. As the saying goes, "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." The bad cop film is a great way to look at this from entry level. Easy access to drugs, money, guns, and the legal authority to use force are not easily handled by everyone. We expect a gangster to abuse his power, but it's much more terrifying when the people sworn to protect the public decide to play the gangster part. Typically in bad cop films, the corruption is contagious and the police "brotherhood." ensures that even the good cops keep quiet or face the consequences, the Internal Affairs Dept. being a bigger enemy than any criminal.

We all take notice of corruption, and police brutality when we see it in the news, as an unpleasant reminder that perhaps we're not as safe as we'd like to think. Suspect police behavior makes the headlines when it happens. Every time it makes us all take notice. Sometimes we can make light of it, like the pepper spraying cop recently making his way around the internet. Sometimes it's too serious for that, as in the Rodney King footage, or the Amadou Diallo shooting. It's not always a cop trying to get rich either, sometimes it's as simple as a guy authorized to use lethal force making a bad judgement call. Anyone can make a mistake, but a cop's mistakes have big consequences for those he's sworn to protect.

For this list, I haven't included the "loose cannon" cop who is arguably an overeager good guy out to put bad guys away (Dirty Harry, Bullitt, etc.) The cops here are those whose interest in public service extends no further than how it can serve them. Of course there are many I didn't mention. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

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10.Dark Blue

In the wake of the Rodney King beating, days before the trial, Detective Eldon Perry, a corrupt racist cop shows rookie cop Bobbie Keough (Scott Speedman) the ropes. Perry's career is threated by Assistant Chief Holland (Ving Rhames) who is threatening to bring Eldon down, although all the other cops are content to stay out of his way. Perry and Keough pursue a pair of killers, although on finding the real killers, they're told to pin it on another pair, as their commanding officer another corrupt cop, JackVan Meter (Brendan Gleeson) gives the real killers an alibi. Perry and Keough comply, and at Perry's urging Keough kills one of their fall guys, which leaves the rookie cop troubled. Van Meter arranges for Perry to meet with the killers, although he's told he's going to meet and kill a witness. Van Meter informs the killers, and plans on them killing Perry to ensure he stays quiet. Keough has confessed the killing to his lover Sgt. Williamson, (Michael Michelle) and they head for the same address to intercept Perry. At the same time the acquittals of the officers in the King beating happens, causing riots to break out while they're on the way. Perry ultimately has to decide what he stands for and what it's worth as his behavior ends up costing a lot more than he'd realized. A fantastic performance from Kurt Russell, and an interesting look at hopefully changing times.

9.To Live and Die in L.A.

Richard Chance (William Peterson) is a secret service agent known for his risk taking. He and his partner are after master counterfeiter Eric Masters (Willem Dafoe), but Hart is killed while investigating him. Chance is assigned a new partner, John Vukovich (John Pankow) who quickly learns that Chance will risk everything to take down Masters and avenge his partner. Going undercover the partners get a meeting with Masters who agrees to print some counterfeit bills for them if they can give him a deposit of $30,000.00. They agree, although this is far more than they can produce through the Department. Chance suggests robbing a criminal named Ling. Ling, however is an undercover FBI agent, and the robbery gets him killed, forcing Chance and Vukovich to stage a drastic escape from the cops. Vukovich is advised by attorney Bob Grimes (Dean Stockwell) to testify against Chance, but he refuses. They pay Masters the deposit and things head quickly downhill, as Masters knows a lot more than they thought, leading to some tough situations for both Chance and Vukovich. Fast paced and high stakes, full of great performances and one of the best chase scenes out there.

8. Romeo is Bleeding
(Full Review Here)

Jack Grimaldi (Gary Oldman) is a cop taking money from the mob for revealing the locations of police protected witnesses. He lives a quiet normal life with his wife, Natalie (Annabella Sciorra) while also supporting a mistress, Sheri (Juliette Lewis). THings are shaken up for Jack when a tip he gives the mob about assassin Mona DiMarkov (Lena Olin) doesn't pay off. Jack is then assigned the task of killing Mona himself. Mona however has other ideas and pays Jack not to kill her but help fake her death. Jack agrees since she's paying him more and the strange and hostile romantic relationship between them leads to many complications for Jack. Jack is soon frantic to stay alive as all of his bad choices catch up with him. Jack's twisted character is the perfect role for Gary Oldman. This is one of his best.

7. L.A. Confidential
(Full Review Here)

In 1950's L.A., mob boss Mickey Cohen is arrested for tax evasion, leaving all the rackets he'd controlled open leading to a series of murders in Cohen's organization. Officer Edmund Exley, (Guy Pearce) a politically minded cop, on his first night in Homicide gets a call about a homicide at the Nite Owl Diner. Capt. Dudley Smith arrives on the scene and takes command telling Exley he can be second in charge. Officer Bud White, a cop known for his brutal tactics despises Exley for getting his former partner Stensland fired by testifying against him. Capt. Smith uses Bud to beat information out of suspects. Both White and Exley sense something wrong about the Nite Owl case. Their individual investigations lead them each to a ring of call girls surgically altered to look like movie stars, and specifically, call girl Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) a Veronica Lake look alike. Exley enlists the aid of "Hollywood" Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) a cop in bed with a gossip magazine, who also has a troubling murder case that doesn't add up. The three cops investigate and come to the conclusion that the problem is in their police department.  Exley and White are manipulated into nearly killing each other, before joining forces to confront the real killer. A great look at how corruption takes over a city and its Police Force.

6. Touch of Evil
(Full Review Here)
Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) the honeymooning Mexican head of the Pan American Narcotics Commission, witnessing a car bomb blow up in the border town, Los Robles. Although out of his country, he suspects the bomb was planted in Mexico and offers his help. This quickly puts him at odds with Capt. Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) the lead US detective who is used to running things his own way. Vargas' wife falls into the hands of the Grandi family, who carry a major grudge against Vargas. When Vargas finds that Quinlan planted evidence to make an arrest, he looks for support to take on Quinlan, using his own partner against him. When the plot is discovered, Quinlan goes over the edge, shooting his partner and attempting to shoot Vargas, except that his partner is just alive enough to shoot him back. After the showdown, we learn that Quinlan's hunch which lead to his planting evidence, and Vargas had dismissed, was right. Welles was simply magnificent in this role.

5.Cop Land
(Full Review Here)

Freddy Heflin (Sylvester Stallone) always wanted to be a cop, but due to hearing loss from a  daring underwater rescue when he was younger, he can't pass the physical. He ends up settling for the next best thing, the Sheriff's position in Garrison, NJ. Garrison is the Cop Land of the title, a town where Officer Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel) has set up shady real estate deals (via mob connections) for his fellow NYC officers. Meek Freddy is faced with evidence of Ray using his connections to cover up a murder, as well as all of Ray's men whose futures depend on helping Ray. Urged on by Internal Affairs officer, Moe Tilden (Robert DeNiro) and his only real friend in Garrison Officer Gary Figgis (Ray Liotta) Freddy must determine how important it is to do the right thing. Sylvester Stallone proves here that he's capable of some real acting. He couldn't have asked for a better supporting cast either.

(Full Review Here)

Undercover Narcotics officer Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) rejoins the police force after suspension due to a messy shooting. Teamed with the brutal Henry Oaks (Ray Liotta) in order to investigate the murder of Oaks former partner, Michael Calvess. While Oaks clearly cared about his partner, his methods of investigation draw suspicion from Tellis (and Internal Affairs) until Tellis is forced to confront Oaks corruption head on in order to save two drug dealers. Oaks is threatening to kill the dealers unless they confess to the murder, and Tellis can't go along with that. Things are not as simple as Tellis assumed. Oaks' manipulation of the case turns out to have deep and personal motives, his intended ends not being as sinister as the means he used. A magnificent and nuanced performance from Liotta. Narc is a dark movie, about how difficult it is for damaged people to figure out the right thing to do.

3.Leon: The Professional
(Full Review Here)

Gary Oldman gives a terrifying performance as Stansfield, a Rogue psychopathic DEA agent who runs his territory like the Mafia, controlling drugs and cash without mercy. He thinks nothing of murdering an entirely family including a toddler in order to exert his authority. Supremely, ruthless, resourceful and intelligent, he inspires fear in everyone. He misses a member of the family he intended to murder when young Mathilde (Natalie Portman) is reluctantly hidden by her neighbor, Leon (Jean Reno) a gifted hired killer. Mathilde is determined to avenge her little brother and Leon agrees to help her do so, setting events in motion which lead to Stansfield and Leon's catastrophic face off. This is Oldman completely unhinged. The role reversal works well, cop as bad guy, assassin as the hero.

2.Training Day

Det. Alonzo Harris, (Denzel Washington) a weathered undercover narcotics officer is paired up with Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) a naive recruit serving his first day undercover. Hoyt is quickly uncomfortable with Harris' brutal methods, which have little to do with law enforcement and more to do with making money fast to pay off a million dollar debt to some mobsters. Hoyt questions Harris' methods but learns that Harris has made sure that he is an accessory in the murder of a retired cop. Hoyt narrowly escapes an arrangement Harris made to have him murdered, thanks, unexpectedly, to a good deed he had committed earlier. Hoyt chases Harris, who finds his neighborhood support is less than he thought it was, and that his enemies are as brutal as he is. Denzel Washington gives us one of his most memorable characters, so much so, that we're amazed if Ethan Hawke's character gets through it.

1.Bad Lieutenant
Harvey Keitel gives a truly amazing performance here as the Lieutenant, a man who is as much a junkie as a cop. He seems to be ticking off every vice on a checklist. Deeply in debt to a dangerous bookie, and living every moment in turmoil, he continually turns to heroin and prostitutes. The Lieutenant relies on his police position to keep him safe from consequences, not realizing that cop or no, some powerful figures will only tolerate so much. He's as bad a Catholic as he is a cop, but realizes he does hold some things sacred when faced with investigating the brutal rape of a nun. He reaches a sort of epiphany while trying to comprehend the nun's forgiveness of her attackers. This doesn't eliminate the consequences of his lifestyle, but for a man as miserable as he is, some consequences could almost be seen as a favor.


Unknown said...

Loved Cop Land and Touch of Evil. They were both completely intense and the performances riveting. Sly Stallone hadn't taken such an incredible rolesince the original Rocky.

Touch of Evil is just plain dark genius as far as I'm concerned. I was also a huge fan of Serpico and The Departed.

And of course both of those Gary Oldman roles just blew me away. I love that man and am happy to see him get an Oscar nod this year. I think he should have been a winner a long time ago. Nobody gets inside a role quite like he does.

INDBrent said...

Thanks Melissa! QUite agree about Sly, he was phenomenal in that one. And Touch of Evil, is in all the proof anyone needs of Welles' genius (fortunately he left us other proof as well) I'm delighted for Oldman too. He's such an amazing actor, the nod is way past overdue. If I'd had more than ten spots, the Departed and Serpico could've easily made it on here. I need to watch Serpico again soon. What a great film it was!

Download Movies said...

well there is nice collection you have of cop movies. but best one which I most like is L.A Confidential.

Emm said...

What a great list! I got the idea I'd seen Dark Blue but then I read further down and realised I was thinking of Training Day. As always, this is one impressive to-watch list!!

heidi1535 said...

Does art imitate life - or does life imitate art...? Either way, it's a gift to us as humans to be able to express ourselves so vividly :)

INDBrent said...

I'd agree Heidi. It's a gift. Personally I think art reflects what's on our minds, many times before we're fully aware of it, but everything comes from living. Thanks for stopping by, I do appreciate it.