In episode 35 of the Close Encounters of the Nerd Cast, TeeJ, Denis and Dan focused on the topic of the best (and worst) buddy cops films and TV shows, especially because Falcon & The Winter Soldier has been breathing new life into the genre. With that in mind here are our list of some of the Top 5 Buddy Cop films for you to check out!
5. Rush Hour (Franchise)
Hard to believe that Brett Ratner's buddy cop trilogy is over 20 years old! The first film dropped in 1998, the second 2001 and the final entry in 2007, with the entire franchise grossing over 1 billion dollars worldwide (so far).
Starring an on screen combo of wise cracking L.A. cop, Agent Carter (Chris Tucker) and fish out of water Hong Kong cop, Lee (Jackie Chan). Tucker's Carter takes very obvious fast comedic beats from Eddie Murphy's Axel F (Beverly Hill's Cop) as well as some of the reckless rule breaking tropes from Mel Gibson's Martin Rigg's (Lethal Weapon). Unsurprisingly the similarities between Tucker and Murphy wasn't lost on Ratner, as Murphy was his first choice to play Carter. But fortunately for Tucker, Murphy turned down the role, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith were also rumoured to have been in the running.
Tucker was fresh off his breakthrough role in The Fifth Element and carried his famous stand up motormouth comedic style into the Rush Hour films. As for the legend that is Jackie Chan, let's be honest he plays the same character in every US film, i.e. a fish out of water, honourable, rule abiding action hero. Chan's signature death defying stunts, slap stick action style and incredible martial arts skills help elevate Rush Hour above most Hollywood action films at that time. He even took a near identical version of his Rush Hour character into the Shanghai Noon films, swapping LA for the wild west and Tucker for Owen Wilson.
The on screen chemistry of Tucker and Chan helped turn the Rush Hour franchise into an absolute storming hit, whilst pushing the perfect blend of martial arts, cop drama and hi-octane action comedy to the masses. A 4th film in the franchise has yet to go into production, but it's only a matter of time.
4. Red Heat (1988)
Arnie has an Austrian accent right? That's kind of Russian, let's make him a Russian super cop and partner him with a cocky Chicago cop played by Jim Belushi.
You can already see a pattern forming when it comes to what makes a good buddy cop film. Partner two complete opposites together, give them some good on screen banter and an enemies to friends story arc, throw in a bit of redemption and your set. Red Heat writer/director Walter Hill (The Warriors) was no stranger to the buddy cops having arguably introduced the genre to the mainstream with the film 48hrs in 1982 (and the sequel Another 48hrs in 1990).
The on screen barbs and quips of Belushi and Arnie, mostly hit the mark, riffing on the classic East meets West culture clash. But the ultra violent script makes this feel more like a Arnie 'bad future' vehicle than a buddy cop escapade. Oddly enough Red Heat helped introduce the concept of taking the burnt out, out of shape, coffee drinking, casual alcoholic, divorced or broken US cop stereotype and pitting it against the disciplined straight edged outsider/foreigner.
Fun fact, a year later Belushi replaced Arnie with a large Alsatian for the buddy dog movie K9! Whilst Arnie's next film was Total Recall!
3. Hot Fuzz (2007)
The third film in the Frost, Pegg and Wright Cornetto triology sees Simon Pegg star as high calibre London City cop Nick Angel, banished to the West country for being too good at his job. There he is forced to work with Danny Butterfield (Nick Frost) a lazy underachieving, action film obsessed village policeman and son of the local Police Chief. This mismatched duo uncover an unlikely village conspiracy and are forced to work together to take down this newly discovered sinister local underworld.
Hot Fuzz playfully bounces off every US action and buddy cop film trope, with Pegg playing the fish out of water rule abiding square and Frost his comedy foil. The film also mines every possible, backwards, rural, 'local village' gag possible and although heavily derivative of every action cop film before it, the local setting and very English humour helps set it apart.
2. Tango & Cash (1989)
This one is a collector's item purely for the unlikely on screen collaboration of Sly Stallone and Kurt Russell, both at the top of the game at the time of release. Tango & Cash doesn't have the fish out of water, out of town/foreigner template of most buddy cop films as both characters are LA narcotics cops. But they are clear opposites, with Stallone playing Ray Tango the stylish, middle class, Armani suit wearing cop. The antithesis of the scruffy, long haired, working class Gabe Cash, played by Russell. When a drug's bust goes wrong the two are set up and falsely jailed for murdering an FBI officer.
The two fierce rivals are forced to work together to prove their innocence and take down the criminals that set them up. Tango & Cash is one of the early buddy cop action comedies, with a solid script and trade mark Harold Faltermeyer sound track.
1. Lethal Weapon (Franchise)
Dropping in 1987, director Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon has to be considered one of the daddies of buddy cop films. The franchise spawned three more films, with the fourth in the series hitting cinemas in 1998.
Fresh from the Mad Max films a young, chiseled Mel Gibson took on the character of of Martin Riggs, former special forces turned hot headed cop with a death wish. Haunted by his wife's death, a broken Riggs is forced to partner with Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover). An embittered, ageing cop and family man who is just days from retirement. The unlikely duo combine to form a formidable crime fighting team, Murtaugh helps give Riggs a reason to live, whilst Riggs breathes new lease of life into Murtaugh.
Lethal Weapon is unquestionably the best buddy cop film out there, it is the yard stick for all others to be measured by. Even though it flexes its comedic chops heavily (especially when Joe Pesci joins the cast) it has quite a serious tone helped along by a melancholic, sax laden sound track. Lethal Weapon is also famous for its outrageous action sequences, it practically invented the jumping off buildings into pool's gimmick and never ending car chases that cause millions in damage.
A fifth film seems unlikely as Gibson and Glover are seriously getting on these days (65 and 74 respectively), but hey if Harrison Ford can still play Indiana Jones you can never say never! A recent TV series did a decent job of recreating the bromance and mayhem of the originals. Until that is brilliant actor Clayne Crawford (Martin Riggs) went a little to method and is rumoured to have self destructed on set, leading to him being fired. He was briefly replaced by Sean William Scott (playing a new but very similar partner character) before the series was cancelled at the end of season 3.
Why no Beverly Hill's Cop in the list I hear you rightfully scream? There is no doubting the pedigree of that franchise, the performances of Eddie Murphy and iconic soundtrack make the first film (less so the second and third) a stonewall action classic. But the clue is in the title, the singular 'cop,' yes he does partner with other cops such as Billy (Judge Reinhold) in the third film, but largely the franchise is a vehicle for Murphy alone. As mentioned already, 48hrs helped create the buddy cop pairing, the sequel Another 48hrs proved that the unlikely duo of fast talkin' Murphy and gruff burnt out Nick Nolte were standard bearers for the genre. A genre which also saw other excellent pairings hit the screen in the form of Bad Boys, The Nice Guys, 2 Guns, Training Day, The Other Guys, Money Train and many others. With a special nod to TV shows like Starsky & Hutch and Chips that really helped give birth to the whole buddy cop genre.
Worth noting that for every ten successful cop pairings in film and TV there were also a string of over worked movie execs desperate to recreate that success with ever more strange and weird pairings. Not just human ones, soon people were being paired with dogs, aliens, robots and finally Whoopi Goldberg and a dinosaur! Proving that it over the years it wasn't just about cop pairings!
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