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THN’s Top Ten ‘Buddy Cop’ Films

To complement the release of 21 JUMP STREET in the UK, and because we thought it might make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, we’re taking a look back at some of the more prominent ‘buddy cop’ films to have entertained us over the years.

IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967) was arguably the first to fully adopt the ‘reluctant-but-unavoidable-partnership’ scenario that, in spite of its simplistic formula, is still a mainstay in the film industry today.

Check out our ten favourites below…

48 HRS (1982)

One’s a hard boiled cop, one’s a wise-cracking criminal…

Walter Hill’s explosive comedy revolves around Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) and the criminal who is forced into his custody, Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy). The duo must put aside their differences in order to try and achieve a common goal: the capturing of a stone cold killer, Albert Ganz (James Remar).

48 HRS marked the feature film debut of Eddie Murphy, and later spawned a sequel; the rather unimaginatively named ANOTHER 48 HRS. It also piqued the interest of writers, directors, producers and audiences the world over, who saw the potential in the relatively untapped trope. Pulitzer prize winning film critic, Roger Ebert later began referring to these formulaic films as ‘Wunza movies’. This is because you can always describe the contrast between the two main characters with the simple template ‘One’s a …, and one’s a …,’ which you’ll hear a variation of at the beginning of countless film trailers.

Albert Ganz: ‘I’ve been hit. I don’t believe it; I got shot!’

Lethal Weapon (1987)

One’s a veteran cop, one’s a lethal weapon…

Homicide detectives Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and Riggs (Mel Gibson) have one thing in common: They prefer working alone. When they are paired together to take on a gang of drug smugglers, they must find a way to make it work before it is too late.

LETHAL WEAPON is considered by many to be the quintessential ‘buddy cop’ film. Shane Black was only 22 years of age when he sold the script that propelled Gibson and Glover to worldwide fame, and brought two unforgettable characters to life, who still maintain a huge following to this day.

The brilliantly seedy score consisting of orchestral music, mixed with jazz and smooth rock, makes the viewer long to join Riggs and Murtaugh, put on a fedora (which, admittedly, suits the music more than the actual era of the film), light a cigar, load up a six-shooter and take out some gangster scum!

Martin Riggs: ‘Do you really wanna jump? Do you wanna? Well, that’s fine with me. Come on, I wanna do it, I wanna do it.’

Turner and Hooch (1989)

One’s an obsessively tidy detective, one’s a slobbering mutt…

Detective Scott Turner (Tom Hanks) must rely on the four-legged friend of a murder victim, who was the only witness to the deed, in order to find the culprit.

The ‘buddy cop’ sub-genre had began to mutate and branch off by the late eighties; industry folk began tweeking the formula ever so slightly here and there to give the illusion of originality. One such tweek came in the form of replacing one of the two main characters with a canine pal. K9, which featured a similar pairing to that of TURNER AND HOOCH, was released just a few months prior, but proved less popular with audiences.

Maybe the subgenre was wearing pretty thin when it came to new ideas, but TURNER AND HOOCH is still definitely a guilty pleasure. It’s also rife with clichés, but sweet Moses is it harrowing, inoffensive and amusing!

Scott Turner: ‘You hungry? Here’s an ashtray. Eat that.’

Tango and Cash (1989)

One’s a cop, one’s a cop. That is to say, they are both cops…

Lt. Ray Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Lt. Gabriel Cash (Kurt Russell) are framed, and must stick together if they’re to have any chance of clearing their names.

TANGO AND CASH is a universally panned action flick, which received no less than three golden raspberry nominations, and is more macho than a topless, gurning heavyweight boxer, who is on steroids, successfully killing a gang of titans… using only a pocket knife. However, as long as you don’t expect SCHINDLER’S LIST, or anything at all for that matter, and you keep an open mind, you’ll be whisked away by Stallone and Russell at their testosterone-fuelled best, firing out as many one-liners as they do bullets.

Ray Tango: ‘Rambo? Rambo’s a pussy.’

Last Action Hero (1993)

One’s a fictional cop, one’s his biggest fan… 

A child’s dream comes true when he is thrown into the movie world of his most beloved action film character, and subsequently becomes his partner.

It was only a matter of time before the postmodern, self-reflexive ‘buddy cop’ film was made, and LAST ACTION HERO was certainly that. It playfully satirises the sub-genre as well as the action genre as a whole, whilst boasting more thrills and excitement than a free bar. Well, almost, but a brilliant supporting cast including Robert Prosky, Charles Dance, Tom Noonan, Ian McKellen and Joan Plowright do make it a pleasure to watch.

Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger): [to cop barring his way] ‘You wanna be a farmer? Here’s a couple of achers!’

[Kicks cop in the groin]

Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)

One’s a cop, one’s an electrician…

John McClane (Bruce Willis) is dragged back into the job he despises when a bomb goes off in a department store. He, along with a Harlem electrician, Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), must play the evil mind games of terrorist Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons) in order to save the city of New York.

The third instalment of the DIE HARD franchise was one of the few sequels in filmic history to not fall epically short of its predecessors. The speedy and gripping pace of the plot, combined with Willis and Jackson’s on-screen chemistry provides oodles of memorable moments, and helped initiate a resurgence in the popularity of the ‘buddy cop’ subgenre.

Simon Gruber: ‘Yesterday we were an army with no country, tomorrow, we have to decide which country we want to buy!’

Men In Black (1997)

One’s a top secret agent, one’s a new recruit…

In order to prevent an inter-galactic war, Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones), and his potential replacement, Agent Jay (Will Smith), must track down and prevent a giant cockroach from destroying all in its path, whilst simultaneously protecting the identities of the many alien life forms who already covertly walk the earth.

The inevitable crossover saw science fiction thrown into the ever-changing mix, and MEN IN BLACK, which is based on the comic book series of the same name, underwent a lot of changes before it became the Oscar award winning film we know and love. Early on in the production process, Quentin Tarantino was in line to direct Clint Eastwood and Chris O’Donnell as the mismatched agents, but this fell through. Barry Sonnenfeld took the helm, and Jones and Smith joined the cast, somewhat reluctantly, after being convinced by Steven Spielberg and Jada Pinkett Smith respectively.

Agent Kay: [Jay has just helped deliver an alien baby] ‘Congratulations, Reg. It’s a… squid.’

District 13 (2004)

One’s an undercover cop, one’s a young rebel…

Set in the Paris ghettos in 2010, an undercover cop (Cyril Raffaelli) and a street-wise vigilante (David Belle) must infiltrate a gang in order to capture and defuse a neutron bomb.

DISTRICT 13 contains some of the most original and ingenious action sequences you are ever likely to see without the aid of CGI. This is doubtless because of the very physical background of the two main actors. Cyril Raffaelli is an adept acrobat, stunts coordinator, and stuntman, and David Belle is one of the inventors of the discipline known as parkour, which is a continuous, efficient and rapid movement, negotiating any environment, using only the human body. Together with Pierre Morel’s direction, they are a formidable team, rendering DISTRICT 13 a visual feast of free flowing action.

Leito: (David Belle): [encountering Yeti] ‘Taha left us a present’

Damien: ‘Well let’s go and unwrap it then.’

Hot Fuzz (2007)

One’s a slick, city cop, one’s an oafish, country bobby…

Inferior and jealous colleagues of a revered London cop conspire to have him transferred to a quiet town, where he is partnered with a dimwitted idealist. On the job, they discover a spate of suspicious accidents and are compelled to investigate.

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg followed their immensely successful hit comedy, SHAUN OF THE DEAD with this action-comedy, worked around a ‘whodunnit?’ structure. The film’s cast contains many of Britain’s best loved comedy actors, including Jim Broadbent, Bill Bailey, Martin Freeman, Olivia Coleman, Paddy Considine and Adam Buxton, who all play a part in making HOT FUZZ a thrilling and hilarious watch throughout.

PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost): ‘Ever fired your gun in the air and yelled, ‘Aaaaaaah?’

The Guard (2011)

One’s a  small-town Police Officer, one’s an FBI hotshot…

An eccentric and provocative Irish Policeman (Brendan Gleeson) teams up with a priggish FBI agent (Don Cheadle) in order to dissipate a gang of international drug smugglers.

This charming film, directed by John Michael McDonagh (brother of IN BRUGES director, Martin McDonagh), is a ‘fish-out-of-water’ black comedy that forms a bricolage of American, English and Irish culture. It cleverly pokes fun at some of their less desirable qualities, and features an outstanding lead performance from the incomparable Gleeson. McDonagh’s first feature film utilises wit, action and intelligent storytelling in a seamless fashion.

Sergeant Gerry Boyle: ‘I’m Irish. Racism is part of my culture.’

21 JUMP STREET is released in cinemas across the UK today.

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Martin has been a film buff (or geek, if you prefer) for as long as he can remember. However, he lives and longs for storytelling of all kinds, and writes across numerous mediums to feed his insatiable appetite. He lives in north-west London, and his favourite films are, possibly: PAN'S LABYRINTH, THEY LIVE, PSYCHO, HIGH FIDELITY, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, STAND BY ME, SIDEWAYS and OFFICE SPACE.

1 Comment

  1. Johnny

    March 21, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Lethal weapon part 2 is actually a hell of a lot better than the majority of films on that list. Tango and Cash effin sucked major balls.

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