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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Police Corruption Movies - A thrilling genre

Been watching a lot of cop movies lately and a few of them were about cops of questionable integrity. So I decided on making a list of the best corrupt cop movies I have seen. Because they are some of the best films you will watch. Most will follow the template of a rogue cop or detective who does all kinds of bad things in the name of justice. It takes for his partner to get killed or some other emotional type event for him to realize that what he has been doing is wrong. Or in some cases, he will just go out in a blaze of glory. There have been several types of these films which usually feature a stellar performance by the lead (i.e Denzel Washington in Training Day and Kurt Russell in Dark Blue). So I fashioned this Top Ten list of the best of the dirty cops genre. Enjoy and feel free to chime in with some of your own choices.

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LA CONFIDENTIAL (1997) Based on author James Ellroy's tale of  police corruption in 1950's Los Angeles. Featuring a terrific cast of Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Danny DeVito and Kim Basinger in her Oscar winning role. The story begins with a brutal shooting at all night diner and three detectives go about solving the case and find a conspiracy that leads all the way to the top. Engaging thriller packed with powerhouse performances.

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TRAINING DAY (2001) Denzel Washington goes all out in his first bad guy role as veteran LA police officer Alonzo Harris, who takes rookie Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) for a wild ride on Hoyt's first day on the job as a member of Harris's narcotics team. You are so used to seeing Denzel playing the good guys over and over, and his performance as Alonzo is positively stunning. He is truly despicable and is so corrupt that in one scene he forces Jake to smoke some PCP at gunpoint. One of the better dirty cop thrillers. Denzel even won an Oscar for his effort.

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DARK BLUE (2003) Two years after Training Day was a hit film, actor Kurt Russell goes the bad guy way as  LA Detective Eldon Perry, who is into so much dirt, he can't even see straight anymore. He is a full blown alcoholic with a straying wife and newbie partner. He begins to questions his values when his boss sets him up to be killed, by the bad guys he is chasing. All amid the Rodney King trial verdicts. So the whole city is on the brink of turmoil as is Perry, who is battling some inner demons. Kurt Russell gives an electrifying performance. He is so evil, that a fellow female officer calls him an evil mother@%*^! right to his face. Russell has a big scene at the end that lets him get everything off his chest. I would have at least nominated Russell for his performance here.

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THE DEPARTED (2007) A star studded cast that brings out the best performances in all. Leonardo DiCaprio is Boston police officer Billy Costigan who goes undercover in Irish mafia head Frank Costello (played by Jack Nicholson) gang. But he has a counterpoint in fellow officer Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) who is on the take for Costello. There are plenty of twists and turns and policemen and gangsters who are not what they seem.

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SERPICO (1973) Al Pacino shines as real life NY cop Frank Serpico who brings to light the police corruption that has run rampant in New York for years. An early take on the now popular genre handles the story with true dramatic overtones and very little action. But it's the performance by Pacino that drives this tense thriller.

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BLACK RAIN (1989) Michael Douglas is NY cop Nick Conklin, who is under investigation by Internal Affairs for allegations of being on the take. But when a high profile murder happens on his turf, committed by a  Japanese criminal, Nick and his partner Charlie (played by Andy Garcia) are asked to escort the criminal back to Japan for trial. You never see Conklin doing anything "dirty" but the movie constantly reminds you thanks to police reports and such that he is definitely not on the up and up. Douglas is good in this role, one of his best.

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INTERNAL AFFAIRS (1990) Andy Garcia is front and center this time as LA Internal Affairs agent Ray Avilla, who is investigating highly decorated officer Dennis Peck (a riveting Richard Gere). Peck is amoral and slightly unhinged and has his hands into all kinds of corruption, shady dealings and even murder. A good psychological thriller with two solid performances by Garcia and Gere.

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STREET KINGS (2008) LA again, noticing a pattern here, provides the backdrop for 18 year veteran office Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) who does all the dirty work asked of him by his captain (Forest Whitaker). Things get hot when Ludlow's ex partner is gunned down by criminals and a cover-up is set in motion. Ludlow's conscience gets the better of him and goes about trying to bring the killers to justice. One of the latest corrupt cops movies to come out recently and it is very good and very similar to Dark Blue and Training Day. It should be..the writer of those two films is the director, David Ayer.

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PRINCE OF THE CITY (1981) Treat Williams is an unethical NY cop who is asked to turn expose police corruption by turning state evidence against his superiors. Top notch drama from veteran Sidney Lumet. And a solid, star making performance by Williams.

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COP LAND (1997) Slyvester Stallone is actually credible as a small town sheriff in a small New Jersey community that has to deal with corrupt New York cops who are using his town for illegal activities. Co-starring an impressive cast of Robert De Niro, Harvey Kietel, and Ray Liotta.


Matthew Coniam said...

Love Cop Land; one of my top five of the last thirty years...
How about Magnum Force?

Gilby37 said...

Cop Land really is a great film in Stallone's later filmography. He was outstanding as the "stooge" who turns the tables on the "big boys." Internal Affairs is probably one Gere's top 5 performances to date! Great choices here!

Annabelle said...

If you want mysterious movies then you must watch All Good Things movie which is going to be released in this month. I am a big fan of mysterious movies. If you really like mysterious and drama movie, then watch it once.

Anonymous said...

Great list. I would add Clint Eastwood's "Changeling".

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