When I sat down to write the screenplay for “Showtime,” a cop/buddy movie about an L.A. detective and a patrol officer forced to film a reality show, I took my comedy assignment very seriously.
I began watching all kinds of cop movies to understand what makes them tick – a bomb is a good device (see what I did there?) I wanted to get behind the badge (I’m clever, aren’t I) and separate the good cop movies from the bad cop movies.
As I can attest, cop movies are hard to make. Hollywood screws them up all the time. “Showtime” was an attempt to poke fun at Hollywood’s depiction of cops.
Why do cops in movies point their gun, make a few comments and then cock their gun to really really scare the perp? Why is there a parking spot always open right in front of the bank the cop needs to rush into?
Why does the bad guy always run up to the roof of a building so the cop will inevitably catch him on the ledge?
Why do cops, when they are making a drug bust, always dip their pinkie into the drugs and taste it to determine it is cocaine? I used that scene in my movie. William Shatner shows Eddie Murphy how to perform the dramatic pinkie drug dip. Of course, Robert DeNiro quickly asks “What if it’s cyanide?”
In preparation to write “Showtime,” I must have watched a dozen or more cop movies. And since Showtime premiered in 2002, I’ve watched dozens more.
In honor of the Oscars, which will award no cop movies this year – although there is some police activity in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” – I’ll offer up my all-time list of the Top 10 Greatest Cop Movies.
(If you’re on Facebook, offer up your own list in the comments section.)
Here’s the countdown:
Ten — Training Day – Denzel Washington is a corrupt beast of a human being. When he says “King Kong” ain’t got nothing on me” I believed him. Great performance.
Nine — The Untouchables – Brian DePalma made a stylish film with an excellent supporting role for Sean Connery. DeNiro proves – with a baseball bat – that he’s really good at being a bad guy.
Eight — Die Hard – Watching every move Bruce Willis makes in this movie is a joy. He’s a smart-aleck who figures out how to get out of increasingly impossible situations.
Seven — Beverly Hills Cop – Eddie Murphy steals every scene as Axel Foley, the t-shirt wearing undercover cop who terrorizes his straight-laced co-workers in the LAPD.
Six — Lethal Weapon – Shane Black’s screenplay is so good. And Mel Gibson (before he went bonkers) and Danny Glover are one of the best on-screen duos in the history of cop-buddydom.
Five — Se7en – What’s in the box? Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey and Gwenyth Paltrow are great in this David Fincher directed classic take on the seven deadly sins.
Four — The Departed – The last 15 minutes of this movie are so riveting as, in true Shakespearian fashion, almost all of the characters end up, um, departed. Martin Scorsese, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson are all amazing.
Three — Dirty Harry – The film that made Clint Eastwood, who famously said, “You gotta ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?” Dirty Harry is so tense as Eastwood runs around San Francisco trying to catch a serial killer.
Two — LA Confidential – My favorite period piece of all time. The search for the killer or killers in the Night Owl Coffee Shop takes an unexpected twist in the end. There’s a great love triangle. It’s ultra violent. It’s got good soundtrack. It’s just an all-time classic of police noir.
One — Fargo – I think I’m gonna barf. Frances McDormand gives one of the all-time performances as the nicest cop in the bloodiest movie. It’s got a wood chipper and Steve Buscemi bleeding from his jaw. William H. Macy is so pathetic in a good way.