They’re partners. They’re friends (sometimes). They bust the criminals while busting each other’s balls. The buddy-cop formula is a reliable staple of Hollywood’s output. This week, Kevin Hart and Ice Cube give it a shot in ‘Ride Along’. Something tells me that this one isn’t destined to be a classic. Nevertheless, it has inspired today’s Roundtable, in which we take a look at some of the highs and lows of the genre.
This is probably too easy, but I still think that Riggs and Murtaugh are a great buddy-cop duo. And I’ll go further. While part 3 is terrible, I think even 4 is worth a ‘Lethal Weapon‘ fan’s time. Just try to tune out Chris Rock (at the height of his “Why can’t I stop smiiiiiiiiling in front of the camera” worst).
Speaking of worst, there’s ‘Showtime‘ with Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy. I suggested going to see this movie in the theater, and 12 years later, my wife still hasn’t let me hear the end of it. A bad, BAD movie.
M. Enois Duarte
It may not necessarily be the best buddy-cop movie (that honor belongs to ‘Lethal Weapon’), but to me, ‘Rush Hour‘ falls pretty high on the list. Jackie Chan was already an established action star with lots of screen charisma, so his appearance in this Brett Ratner-helmed movie was an awesome plus. Chris Tucker, on the other hand, had much to prove, but actually does a great job as the loudmouthed, clumsy detective.
When we’re talking the worst of this genre, I can’t think of anything as godawful as ‘Theodore Rex‘. In this alternate future where dinosaurs live alongside humans, tough cop Whoopi Goldberg is paired with an unfunny, wisecracking T. Rex and together hunt down a killer. Imagine the awfulness of ‘Turner & Hooch’, ‘K-9’ and ‘Cop and a Half’ mixed with the worst of ’90s kitsch and pop-culture, and you have this absolute disaster of unpleasantness.
Best: It’s so tempting to pick Tony Scott’s ‘The Last Boyscout’, but instead I’ll go with ‘Shoot to Kill‘ from 1988. Sidney Poitier, Tom Berenger, Andrew Robinson and even Kirstie Alley somehow manage to make a taut thriller out of what could easily been a wintery ‘Summer Camp’ type situation. This movie does well with a light amount of gunplay and some basic wilderness climbing, and I can only imagine if it had been made in the past twenty years how many explosions would be required. Poitier lends a deft touch to his role as a city-dwelling FBI agent struggling in the outdoors. The scene where the two heroes cross a canyon is one of the movie’s many gems.
Worst: There are way too many unwatchably bad buddy-cop movies. The main problem is that pairing two actors/characters together to be both funny and action-packed is tougher than most realize. Then we have ‘Double Impact‘, which foregoes any kind of intriguing oil-and-water pairing by simply having Jean-Claude Van Damme play both roles. The entire “You’re different from me so we don’t get along, but then later we do” dynamic is both terrible and hilarious when applied to Van Damme and Van Damme in different roles. That they aren’t cops doesn’t really matter, which is the stupid beauty of doubling up the chameleon-like Van Damme, who could be anyone anywhere just as long as he is still Van Damme.
For me, ‘The Killer‘ is the definitive Hong Kong action / buddy-cop movie, and is a glorious thrill ride of both genres. Also in a similar vein would be ‘Bullet to the Head’ or ‘Hard Boiled’.
My pick for worst would be Kevin Klein and Will Smith in ‘Wild Wild West‘. It’s a sad take on a great TV show.
Best: Not only does ‘Last Action Hero‘ make the best of the buddy-cop dichotomy, but it adds a fantasy element that will make any movie-loving kid giddy with excitement. I was 13 when it opened. I remember riding the bus to the closest Cinemark (about ten miles away) and seeing the very first showing. I think the matinee ticket cost was around $3.25 and the showing started around 10:30 AM. Already being a movie geek and having movie-based imagination, the premise was something that I would frequently daydream about: What would happen if I was sucked into the world of a specific movie? The way that the first half plays out is straight out of my 13-year-old mind. What I didn’t see coming was the second half, something that I’d never contemplated: What would happen if my favorite movie heroes were sucked off the screen and placed into our world? Twenty years later, ‘Last Action Hero’ still holds up. It’s just as fun and playful for me now as it was then.
Worst: ‘Cop Out‘. What the hell happened to Kevin Smith? I used to praise the guy. I watched all umpteen hours of his “Special Evening” events. But now I can’t stand him. I see the spots for his TV series ‘Comic Book Men’ and groan at the sight of him. Watching ‘Cop Out’, I immediately realized that it was giant piece of crap. Everything that I liked about Smith was gone. Bruce Willis seems self-loathing through the entire picture, phoning in his performance. Tracy Morgan acts like typical Tracy Morgan, adding nothing to the picture and being a nuisance. The jokes aren’t funny. The story sucks. The music is bloody wretched. I wouldn’t watch ‘Cop Out’ again even if it resulted in Kevin Smith returning to his former glory. I can go back and watch his great films any time, but I can never un-watch that turd again.
Best: After a couple years of hating Channing Tatum, ‘21 Jump Street‘ was the movie that turned me completely around on the actor. He loosened up considerably in that one, and has great chemistry with partner Jonah Hill (another star I had no great love for). The movie is tremendously entertaining and funny, and pokes fun at both its source material and the genre in a loving fashion (as opposed to the likes of, say, the disdainful ‘Starsky & Hutch’ movie). I hope the sequel can live up to it.
Honorable mentions to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in ‘Hot Fuzz’, Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell in ‘The Other Guys’, and Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh in ‘Police Story 3: Supercop’ (the best entry in that series).
Worst: Ridley Scott’s ‘Black Rain‘ was a box office dud back in 1989, but somehow garnered a reputation on home video as an underrated gem. It’s really no such thing. Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia play a pair of racist dickweeds from New York City who travel to Japan for a prisoner extradition, then stick around to take down the Yakuza and show all the incompetent Japanese police how real cops get things done. Along the way, Garcia loses his head and Douglas falls in love with the only white woman he meets in the country. Despite the exotic setting and Scott’s sleek visual style (which depicts the city of Osaka as an almost ‘Blade Runner’-like dystopian metropolis), the movie is extraordinarily ridiculous and cheesy, with the 45-year-old Douglas (sporting the exact same mullet that Mel Gibson had in the first ‘Lethal Weapon’) riding motorcycles and kicking ass in a bid to pass as a relevant action hero for the ’80s. The film is also rather culturally insensitive, to say the least.
Tell us in the Comments about your favorite (and least favorite) buddy-cop movies.