The last time I spoke to a representative of the law I was asking for directions to the nearest pay and display car park. The copper heaved a sigh of despair and with nary a word spoken pointed me to the next right hand turning. I gave him a sarcastic thank you and went on my way. Here was a man clearly not enjoying his chosen vocation. He was roughly my age but twice my size round the waist; Officer Crockett he was not. Being of equivalent age he probably grew up with the same police themed movies I had. Weaned on a diet of Robocop (1987)
and Renegades (1989)
he probably assumed a career in the police force would be a steady stream of high-octane shootouts, sweaty soft-focus leg-overs and death defying car chases. The reality was day times patrolling the high street moving on whiffy tramps, and evenings spent confiscating alco-pops from mouthy teenagers. No wonder he had the hump. So who do we blame for this negligent transmission of misinformation? Director Norman Jewison, that’s who. His 1965 picture In The Heat Of The Night (1965)
may have been a breakthrough for racial equality in Hollywood with much praise heaped on Sidney Poitier for his portrayal of Detective Virgil Tibbs, but it also laid the foundations for the Buddy Cop movie. Tibbs had to overcome an intense dislike of local police chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) to solve a murder in a small racist Mississippi town. Gillespie and Tibbs became unlikely comrades in the end, solving the case and saving the day. Thus the template for the Buddy Cop movie was crafted; two boys in blue from different sides of the tracks forming an unlikely bond in order to catch the bad guys. And having a hell of alot of fun along the way. So you can thank Jewsion for inspiring such pairings as Red Heat (1988), Alien Nation (1988), Turner and Hooch (1989), Hard Boiled (1992), Men In Black (1997), Miami Vice (2006),
and The Other Guys (2010).
You can also give him a doff of the cap for these ten couplings.
- 48 HRS (1982) / ANOTHER 48 HRS (1987)
There were only a few dalliances with the Buddy Cop movie after Poitier and Steiger kicked things off, Freebie and the Bean (1974) being the only film that attempted to develop the genre. It took a breakout role for Saturday Night Live star Eddie Murphy to cement the Buddy Cop film’s position in Hollywood history. The script for 48 Hrs (1982) had been knocking around Columbia and Paramount studios for some time before the winning combination of Murphy as criminal Reggie Hammond and Nick Nolte as gruff cop Jack Cates was conceived. The first pairing was set to be Richard Pryor as the crook and Clint Eastwood as the cop, before Eastwood decided the wrong side of the law would be more fun to play and set off to Escape From Alcatraz (1979). Dirty Harry’s loss was the world’s gain though as the casting heavens aligned to bestow upon us a pair of actors with chemistry in spades. Not strictly a cop duo, the interplay between Murphy and Nolte was so strong if formed a characterisation recipe that is still utilised today. Nolte’s Cates has two days to catch an escaped cop killer, so paroles the killer’s former associate, Hammond, to help him. The cultural differences between the smooth talking, sharp suited Hammond, and the chain smoking, shit-kicker Cates drive the movie forward, with countless hilarious exchanges, "I’ve been in prison for three years. My dick gets hard if the wind blows”. The centre piece of the film, and a scene the ensured Murphy would be in work for at least the next decade, sees Hammond lay down his own acid tongue law in a red-neck bar, "There’s a new sheriff in town!”. Nolte and Murphy reunited for another entertaining couple of days in 1990 with Another 48 hrs (1990).
Tasty Morsel – The band at Vroman’s Bar are The Busboys, who would go on to open for Eddie Murphy during his stand-up comedy tours.
- BEVERLY HILLS COP (1984) / BEVERLY HILLS COP II (1987)
The next big Buddy Cop movie was another vehicle that Eddie Murphy stepped into when the intended lead actor passed on the project. Beverly Hills Cop (1984) was originally written as a serious action film about a fish out of water cop tracking his friend’s killers to sunny Los Angeles. Mickey Rourke turned down the lead role of Axel Foley before it landed in Sylvester Stallone’s lap. A fortnight before filming was due to start Sly took his acting talents elsewhere. Murphy was snapped up and frantic script rewrites were carried out. The resulting film, making the most of Murphy’s comedic talents, is possibly the greatest action comedy film ever made. While a lot of the film’s success was attributed to Murphy’s improvisation and delivery, the real joy was seeing Foley toy with and eventually team up with the wonderful pairing of John Ashton and Judge Reinhold as local coppers Taggert and Rosewood. The pair are instructed to keep tabs on Foley but their bungled attempts at control see them throw caution to the wind and help Foley storm the bad guy’s lair in a text book example of the climatic shoot-out. The film’s success ensured a sequel, and though part two didn’t quite live up to the promise of part one, it was a joy to see Foley, Taggert and Rosewood together again. The police work carried out in both movies plays more like a great night out on the town, neon-lit strip clubs, frantic car chases, gun club gatecrashing and visits to the Playboy mansion. As such an evening spent with this cop trio is a mini celebration of eighties merriment. A rollicking good soundtrack for both movies, featuring a cavalcade of where-are-they-now eighties stars such as The Jets and the Pointer Sisters and that legendary Harold Faltermeyer theme, was the icing on the cake. Avoid the lamentable part three and pray for a return-to-form part four
Tasty Morsel – Martin Scorsese was offered the chance to direct the film but turned the job down, stating that the story reminded him too much of the film Coogan’s Bluff (1968).
- RUNNING SCARED (1986)
With eighties cinema becoming awash with chiselled beefcakes like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lungren, the Buddy Cop movie was able to provide the less athletic actors in Hollywood some much needed action work. The trick with the Buddy Cop movie was to present two average Joes, whose witty repartee would be an entertaining alternative to a muscled bunch of fives and heave-ho of a ten ton bazooka. A few years before Bruce Willis (Die Hard (1988) turned the action hero into a be-vested everyman, the Buddy Cop film had this angle sown up. In director Peter Hyams Running Scared (1986) unlikely action stars Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal give a fine account of themselves as two of Chicago’s finest. The acting duo play Ray Hughes and Danny Constanzo, partners that after one tough bust too many decide to retire to sunny Florida to open up their own bar. But before they head off into the sunset they have one last crook to track down, a local drug baron who has escaped the law’s clutches. Most cities in eighties America were ripe Buddy Cop territory, mean streets tailor made for shooting gritty action set pieces. Peter Hyams took full advantage of the Chicago locales for some solid episodes and the all important chemistry between the lead pair sparkled, "How come these losers never live on the ground floor”. Hyams also kept the Buddy Cop movie traditions rolling with another toe-tapping soundtrack crammed full of eighties cheese (New Edition, Kim Wilde, Patti LaBelle) and a perfect balance between smart-ass comedy and ruthless violence.
Tasty Morsel – A sequel, tentatively called Still Running was scripted, but turned down by both Hines and Crystal.
- LETHAL WEAPON (1987)
The grand fromage of the Buddy Cop genre, this late eighties classic flipped the 48 Hours (1982) racial template on its head by placing Danny Glover in the straight cop role and having Mel Gibson as the loony, unhinged one. A good Buddy Cop movie lives or dies by the relationship between its two leads and there has been no finer pairing than Glover and Gibson. With acting chops honed in such high-brow pictures as The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) and The Colour Purple (1985) the two G’s crafted a loveable but genuine cop couple. Their believability soaked the action scenes with authenticity and Gibson’s melancholic madness made his recently widowed Riggs an empathetic winner. Chuck in the genuinely nuts Gary Busey as memorable villain Mr. Joshua and eighties cop perfection was assured. The pair returned for Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) with Joss Ackland hamming up a storm as a South African smuggler, "Diplomatic immunity!”. The only misstep was the über annoying Leo Getts (Joe Pesci), but his grating presence in Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) and Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) was tempered by the superb Rene Russo. As Sergeant Lorna Cole she provided Riggs with a perfect female foil and love interest. The central pair hung in there and while they did seem to get a bit "too old for this shit” and Gibson’s borderline insanity was swapped for smart one-liners, the action was always explosive, the bad guys stayed colourful and the central cast remained endearing. Even Pesci got a final much needed straight scene as he comforts Riggs by his wife’s graveside with a tale of a lost pet frog.
Tasty Morsel – Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy was considered to direct the movie before duties fell to Richard Donner.
- SHAKEDOWN / BLUE JEAN COP (1988)
Following the success of Lethal Weapon the grittier Buddy Cop movie was the new Hollywood money spinner. Films such as Red Heat (1988) and The Rookie (1990) tempered the comedic interplay between the central cop duos with glowering heroes and more sinister villains. And when it came to grizzled coppers they didn't came more gravelly than Sam Elliott. As New York narcotics agent Richie Marks his home turf are the grimy avenues of the Big Apple. The city is clasping onto the final days of it graffiti strewn façade, an era superseded by a Manhattan that became a shiny glassed, safe-street tourist attraction. Marks is an essential part of this dying city image, his washroom the tatty toilets of a local fleapit cinema, his living room the litter strewn streets. Marks meets the town’s clean cut future in the form of besuited public defender Roland Dalton (Peter Weller). They inhabit that essential buddy cop fold of opposite sides of the tracks; Dalton likes his law books, Marks likes beating a confession out of scumbags. In true cop duo fashion they have to reconcile their differences in order to solve a serious case of police corruption. Titled Shakedown in the States but Blue Jean Cop in the UK, the film failed to set the box office alight but found a friendly cult following on video release. As with all good buddy cop thrillers the movie was made by the central pairings chemistry. Weller filled the pressed suits with a genuine intellect and Elliott effortlessly portrayed the cop with dirty hands. Unlike many a pampered Hollywood actor Elliott carries an authentic air of grit that gives the distinct impression he has just strayed in from an afternoon of lumberjacking and bar brawling.
Tasty Morsel – Watch out for former Starsky and Hutch’s Huggy Bear, actor Antonio Fargas, in a small role.
- TANGO AND CASH (1989)
The eighties was a golden time for unbelievable cinema. If you could suspend your disbelief or at least chuckle at the implausibility of the premise there was much fun to be had from the decade where more was more. Everything was big in the eighties, hair, cars, shoulder pads, and the same went for cinema. The explosions were huge, the swear words were plentiful, lady legs were long and breasts bountiful. What a time it was to be an adolescent audience member. At the end of the decade director Andrei Konchalovsky threw together two of the era’s coolest action heroes to form the ultimate kick-ass police tag team. Sylvester Stallone looked more Egon Spengler than Armani model playing the pressed-suit, by the book Raymond Tango. But his sharp edges were off-set by a cowboy boot sporting Kurt Russell as the rough around the edges, shoot now-ask questions later Gabriel Cash. The plot was all kinds of stupid with the top cop pairing somehow framed for murder by Jack Palance’s cookie cutter villian. Inevitably they break out of prison to go on a revenge fuelled romp, picking up Stallone’s pole-dancing sister Teri Hatcher and the mother of all heavily armed off-road vehicles on the way. The concluding quarry based tear up with its cavalcade of supped-up building machinery plays like a deleted scene from Mad Max 2 (1981). It is all loud noises and gun-toting bravado but it is impossible not to be entertained by the chaos. I think it’s about time someone cooked up a sequel with the Desperate Housewife Hatcher and Russell having to once again team up with the besuited Stallone.
Tasty Morsel – Watch out for an in-joke about Stallone’s recent divorce from Danish actress Brigitte Nielsen, as Tango growls at Cash "I hate Danish”.
- BAD BOYS (1995) / BAD BOYS II (2003)
Before Will Smith became the acclaimed actor he is today he was spitting lyrics as rapper The Fresh Prince. It led to the super popular television show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air before trouble with the taxman prompted Smith try and break into "serious” acting. Despite a strong showing in Six Degrees of Separation (1993) acting superstardom eluded Big Willie. The man needed a box office hit and no one made them bigger than producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. Smith was fortunate to be paired with fellow television comedy actor Martin Lawrence in their next high-octane package. The producers also gave future action maestro director Michael Bay his first gig. It was a winning combination. The clever script placed Smith and Lawrence as Miami narcotics detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett tracking down $100 million of heroin nabbed from a police vault. The essential buddy cop comedy element is captured via family man Marcus having to pretend to be his womanizing partner Mike in order to get key witness Julie (a never hotter Tea Leoni) to cooperate. The sunny Miami backdrops make for a pleasing change to the dour streets of inner-city America that most buddy cops romp around. The swaying palm trees and gleaming sports cars also invoke the finest Miami Vice traditions. A sterling performance at the box office was the first step to Smith’s globe conquering cinematic career. Smith played tribute to his professional springboard in 2003 when he returned with Lawrence for Bad Boys II (2003). The story was a lot thinner second time round but the action was stuffed full of more explosives than an average global conflict.
Tasty Morsel – Unbelievably the movie was originally designed to feature Wayne’s World (1992) star Dana Carver and the portly comedic actor Jon Lovitz.
- RUSH HOUR (1998)
The Buddy Cop movie took some time off during most of the nineties whilst more intelligent, CGI created fare took over the box office. When Scream (1996) showed that there was money to be made from the forgotten genres of eighties cinema some moviemakers cautiously re-entered the Buddy Cop fray. Director Brett Ratner used his stab at the genre to introduce Asian movie legend Jackie Chan to American audiences; it was a long overdue introduction. Only those with an interest in chop-socky cinema fresh out of the Orient knew of Chan’s considerable talents. After Rush Hour (1998) everyone was clamouring to devour his back catalogue. Chan’s dizzying physical performance was a revelation for those that had not already sampled the delights of his Police Story and Drunken Master series of films. Ratner not only captured some top-notch Chan stunt work but also used his fish-out-of-water story to craft some great laughs. Chan is a Chinese police detective begrudgingly teamed up with disgraced LA cop Chris Tucker. The temptation would have been to paint Chan as a rice-eating simpleton struggling to cope with modernised America, but sensibly Ratner made Tucker the resident idiot, his loud mouth antics in marked contrast to Chan’s quiet wit, "I like to let people talk who like to talk. It lets me find out how full of shit they are”. A solid box office showing ensured a sequel and Rush Hour 2 (2001) provided further action delights, placing Chan’s Detective Lee on home turf in a Hong Kong setting. Keep an eye out for an uncredited Don Cheadle who agreed to take a small part providing he got to tangle with martial arts legend Chan. A disappointing third film Rush Hour 3 (2007) dumped the police duo in Paris.
Tasty Morsel – Actor Martin Lawrence and comedian Dave Chappelle were both considered for the role of Carter that eventually went to Tucker.
- KISS KISS BANG BANG (2005)
Not strictly a buddy cop movie but a pair of amateur investigators that embodies all the best elements of the genre. The film’s screenplay was written by Lethal Weapon scriber Shane Black (see him in his acting debut as Hawkins in Predator (1987)). Having devised Riggs and Murtaugh, Black penned their follow up Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), before turning in the entertaining The Last Boy Scout (1991). He then triumphed where many villains failed by halting the Schwarzenegger machine with The Last Action Hero (1993). After that sizeable flop Black packed his typewriter away. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) was his first script since the 1996’s The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) and it was the first to recapture the wonderful characterisation of the Lethal Weapon series. Aiming for a full on comeback Black decided to get behind the camera to direct. For his central pairing he brought in two former stars whose careers were also in need of a pick-me-up, Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. Downey Jr. plays petty crook Harry Lockheart, who legging it from a botched robbery finds himself in a movie audition for a crime film. The producers assume Lockheart is method acting and hire him on the spot. To prepare for the role he is teamed with real-life private investigator "Gay” Perry Van Shrike (Kilmer). But the pair find themselves embroiled in an actual kidnapping and murder conspiracy. The pairing of Kilmer and Downey Jr. was one of the best team ups for many a year, Black’s clever dialogue whipping back and forth between the twosome with ease and humour. The choice to make Kilmer’s character gay is never played on for cheap laughs though and makes the duo’s relationship even more affecting. And to top things off Downey Jr. breaks the "fourth wall” throughout offering the viewer knowing narration with his trademark brand of humour.
Tasty Morsel – Perry's sexual preference was not stated in Black’s original screenplay, and it was Kilmer that suggested that it might make the character more interesting to make him gay.
- HOT FUZZ (2007)
Shaun of the Dead (2004) was such a revelation the next teaming up of writer and director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost was highly anticipated. The "Three Colours Cornetto” or "Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy, a set of three movies with Wright behind the camera and Pegg and Frost double teaming in front of it, was the end game. Shaun had already called upon the trio’s fondness for zombie movies. Their follow-up would honour the explosive cop films of their youth. Just as Dawn of the Dead (1978) was supplanted to a London suburb, so Lethal Weapon (1987) would be unloaded in the quaint English village of Sandford. Wright has all kinds of fun with the juxtaposition of California tinged action heritage set against the rose garden scenery of rural Gloucestershire. Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a London cop so good at his job he is making the rest of the Met look bad. He is unceremoniously transferred to sleepy Sandford where the only excitement is policing the local church fete. Angel’s one companion is his super-dim partner Danny Butterman, but the country copper’s ineptitude soon tires on the London super cop. When local figure heads starting dying in suspicious circumstances Angel struggles to convince the powers that be that a killer is on the loose. Wright continued the excellent work of Shaun and even slotted in some wonderful tributes to his earlier masterpiece, most notably Angel’s shortcut over some garden fences. The tributes to buddy cop thrillers of old are blatant (Point Break (1991) in particular) and the wonderful rapport between Pegg and Frost is once again gold-dust. An excellent supporting cast (the two Andy’s need to have their own spin off) with many a pleasing cameo provides succulent icing, but it is Pegg’s transformation from the nerdy Shaun to the thoroughly believable action hero Detective Angel that really astonishes.
Tasty Morsel – The third part of the "Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy is titled The World’s End (2013), and is set to follow Pegg and Frost as childhood friends recreating an epic pub crawl 20 years after the pint swilling marathon.