Here are capsule reviews of ten great/terrible/noteworthy cop movies I’ve watched/had on in the background lately, with helpful guides to which Character Actors You Love (But Can’t Name) are in them. Apologies for vagueness, I mostly have these on in the background while I’m working and may have missed some of the awesome (or some gun and badge scenes).
A modern classic. Stars Brad Davis and Sharon Stone (post-perm, pre-Basic Instinct). Buddy cop idiocy of the highest order. Bad movie, good budget. Lots of explosions. Cars fly. Lousy wisecracks. Vending machine gets shot. Angry lieutenant. Gun and badge scene. Horrible synth ballad over the end credits. Adam Ant as a bad guy. This movie’s got it all. A real primer for The Precinct’s future crew.
Character actor you love: Jonathan Banks, who’s played an arsehole in many cop films, from Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs to Boiling Point and Dark Blue.
BACK IN ACTION (1994)
A beauty of a stupid cop movie. Stars WWF/WWE wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Billy Blanks. Who is Billy Blanks? A man who got small roles in dumb action movies, until he invented a version of kickboxing (called Tae Bo) safe enough for celebrities to use as exercise, became famous, and started getting LEAD roles in dumb action movies. Like this one! He does a reasonable job of looking angry and hurting people, but obviously the draw for me was Roddy Piper, who’s not as fun as he is in They Live but does a perfectly good B-movie cop character, including lots of nice yelling.
Character actor you love: This one might be a little too cheap for that.
TROJAN WARRIOR (2002)
I’m one of the few people who can say he saw this film (known overseas as KICK IN THE HEAD) at the cinema. It was out for a week. I forced some guys to go to support an independently made Aussie fillum. We were bored out of our minds. Having rewatched it, however, I can say it’s not that much worse than most of the crappy cop movies I’ve watched.
Not quite a cop movie, I’m including it because it’s stupid, and because the main character is supposed to be an ex-cop. This character, who’s got the totally cool name “Ajax”, is played by champion kickboxer Stan “The Man” Longinidis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Longinidis). The movie appears to have been made by the entire Greek and Jewish populations of Melbourne, and contains a wealth of awkward C-grade Melbourne celebrity cameos (perhaps the most exciting, and most awkward, is that of perennial Melbourne herbal remedy pitchman Professor Yoland Lim as an Asian crime boss.
Since it’s a local production, I have a few personal connections to it, the closest and funnest being comics superstar Jason Badower, who plays a henchman and gets his ARSE KICKED by Stan “The Man”.
I’d heard of SIGNAL ONE, aka BULLET DOWN UNDER, as being one of the stinkiest Aussie movies ever, and now that I’ve seen it I’d suggest it’s up there with TROJAN WARRIOR. It benefits from having an American star (Christopher Atkins) who looks awkward and really doesn’t belong in it at all. It benefits less from having as its co-star ex-footy player/battery pitchman Mark “Jacko” Jackson, who yells good but doesn’t do much else. The bit where he beats Atkins bloody for no good reason is worthwhile, though. It’s no COLD STEEL, but I’m glad I saw it.
Character actor you love: Richard Carter, another guy who’s been an Aussie cop in bloody everything. I’m looking forward to catching him again soon in a new acquisition, “Grievous Bodily Harm” (1988), starring John Waters and Colin Friels…
BLUE JEAN COP (SHAKEDOWN) (1989)
Didn’t pay much attention to this one, but only because it actually semed like it might be quite a good film which I’ll watch properly later. Peter Weller (Robocop!) is a lawyer, and Sam Elliott is a cop. Together, they… do things. There’s corrupt cops involved.
What a delight. The cover of this tape looked so boring I almost didn’t pay the dollar. Little did I know that this drab-looking thing labeled LINE OF DUTY was in fact the pilot for an ’80s cop show that never got off the ground! This is something I’ve come across a number of times — they take a TV pilot, or two episodes of a show, put ‘em on a VHS tape and stick them in Australian video shops like they’re a real movie (DEAD TROUBLE and MORE DEAD TROUBLE are examples, as is BROKEN BADGES, which I’ll get to next).
This is another forgotten classic. US Marshals “Waco” Wheeler and Milo Rhinehart contend with an angry boss, a sniveling penpusher and a bunch of “real” Federal police sneering at them as they get out there and bring in a big drug dealer. Hot rock guitars! Synths! Written and created by a veteran of MACGYVER, which will give you some idea as to the tone. It’s light and fun and full of explosions. Nice!
Character actor you love: Mitch (“X-Files”) Pileggi!
BROKEN BADGES (1990)
Another TV pilot, this one starring a personal favourite Character Actor I Love, Miguel Ferrer (“Robocop”, “Twin Peaks”, “Crossing Jordan”), as a Cajun cop who forms an ad hoc police squad of sidelined, mentally unsound cops. Created by Stephen J Cannell (“The Rockford Files”, “The A-Team”)!
DRAGNET (season 3, 1953)
The ’50s TV show, not the ’80s movie. I got two discount DVDs from Chickenfeed and I was amazed at how slow-moving it is. Not just because this is early television but also because they appear to want to get across how methodical and time-consuming real police work can be. That said, the first episode I watched spent a good five minutes on Friday’s partner recommending him a headache remedy. The scene went on and on and was (semi-intentionally?) hilarious. Much prefer this to an episode of CSI: MIAMI.
I can see why this show is so beloved. A lot of it is Jack Webb, who portrays Sgt Joe Friday as a thoughtful detective with a huge amount of soul visible in his eyes (maybe David Caruso on CSI: MIAMI wears sunglasses all the time because his character, “Horatio Caine”, has no soul and is, rather, a cute name and some shitty puns).
Character actor you love: Too old for me to spot anyone I recognise. But I did catch the voice of announcer George Fenneman, who played the same role on Groucho Marx’s THIS IS YOUR LIFE.
THE GLIMMER MAN (1996)
One of Seagal’s more worthwhile movies, complete with sassy black partner (a Wayans), weird hair and ludicrous Asian-inspired outfits. He lies to a suicidal teenager then smashes him through a window. He’s bulging with fortune cookie wisdom (and a little bit of flab). He truly is one of the strangest popular action heroes ever.
Character actor you love: Stephen Tobolowsky, perhaps best known as Ned Ryerson in GROUNDHOG DAY (“Bing!”) and recently seen in recurring roles on HEROES and DEADWOOD.
BON COP BAD COP (2006)
A Canadian buddy-cop movie in which an Ontario (English-speaking) and a Montreal (Frenchspeaking) detective are made to work together to solve a series of killings. Along the way, explosions and fights and lots of French/Canadian jokes and local humour. This was real good and funny. There’s TWO angry bosses, which is nice. Can’t remember a gun and badge scene, but you can’t have everything.
Character actor you love: I’m sure there’s some, but I’m not Canadian so I can’t pick ‘em!