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"I'm too old for this shit!": The Buddy Cop Genre

by Hunter Duesing
"I'm too old for this shit!": The Buddy Cop Genre by Hunter Duesing
You know the drill, one’s a loudmouth rookie, one’s a no-nonsense veteran two weeks from retirement. Hilarity ensues. Sometimes. The buddy cop movie is all about culture clash, be it young paired with old, white paired with black, man paired with woman, or in the most dire and ill-advised of premises, man paired with dog. They don’t have to be cops, a lot of the time you have a cop with a con like in 48 Hrs. or secret agents like From Paris With Love, but the formula of the genre stays the same. They’re odd couples that get into some serious shenanigans. The prototype for the buddy cop movie was Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the… Read more

You know the drill, one’s a loudmouth rookie, one’s a no-nonsense veteran two weeks from retirement. Hilarity ensues. Sometimes.

The buddy cop movie is all about culture clash, be it young paired with old, white paired with black, man paired with woman, or in the most dire and ill-advised of premises, man paired with dog. They don’t have to be cops, a lot of the time you have a cop with a con like in 48 Hrs. or secret agents like From Paris With Love, but the formula of the genre stays the same. They’re odd couples that get into some serious shenanigans.

The prototype for the buddy cop movie was Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night , but the first true example of the genre was Richard Rush’s Freebie and The Bean in 1974. The buddy cop genre proper didn’t take off until nearly a decade later with Walter Hill’s 48 Hrs. in 1982, which teamed up a racist cop played by Nick Nolte with a wisecracking hustler played by Eddie Murphy. Hill’s eye for action, and the chemistry between Murphy and Nolte made a potent combination of action and comedy. 48 Hrs. was a massive success and made a star out of Eddie Murphy, giving him his first big vehicle, Beverly Hills Cop, and later spawned a sequel, Another 48 Hrs..

The most iconic film of the genre came in 1987 with Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon. Drawing from a witty script by a young Shane Black, who is probably the genre’s greatest voice, Lethal Weapon starred Mel Gibson as a self destructive scrapper cop who is paired up with Danny “I’m too old for this shit” Glover, who came to personify the grizzled old veteran close to retirement. While humorous, Lethal Weapon had some hard drama to go with laughs, specifically in dealing with Gibson’s cop with a death wish, allowing for darker elements to creep into buddy cop movies, laying the groundwork for films like Ridley Scott’s Black Rain and David Fincher’s Se7en, Scott’s film also owing a debt to the race-relations brought up in 48 Hrs.

Like any popular genre, it has gone through its share of permutations, as it has been mixed with sci-fi with films like Men in Black and Alien Nation, as well as horror movies like Dead Heat and The Hidden. Guy Ritchie even applied the tropes of the genre when making his recent adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. While a genre that is already known for being comedic, it has lately gone into the post-modern realm of parody with movies like Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz and Adam McKay’s The Other Guys, the sure sign of a film type that has run its course, yet has a special place the hearts of film fans everywhere, even if most of the movies are pretty terrible.

Hunter’s Top 10 Buddy Cop Movies
(in no particular order)
1. Lethal Weapon
2. Hot Fuzz
3. 48 Hrs.
4. Bad Boys II
5. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
6. Knock Off
7. Hard Boiled
8. The Last Boy Scout
9. Point Break
10. Se7en

Buddy cop movies not listed on MUBI:
Running Scared, 1986, Dir. Peter Hyams
Stakeout, 1987, Dir. John Badham
Dragnet, 1987, Dir. Tom Mankiewicz
Shakedown, 1988, Dir. James Glickenhaus
Turner & Hooch, 1989, Dir. Roger Spottiswoode
Collision Course, 1989, Dir. Lewis Teague
K-9, 1989, Dir. Rod Daniel
Renegades, 1989, Dir. Jack Sholder
Downtown, 1990, Dir. Richard Benjamin
The Hard Way, 1991, Dir. John Badham
Cop and a Half, 1993, Dir. Henry Winkler
Fair Game, 1995, Dir. Andrew Sipes
Top Dog, 1995, Dir. Aaron Norris
Money Train, 1995, Dir. Joseph Ruben
Theodore Rex, 1996, Dir. Jonathan Betuel
Money Talks, 1997, Dir. Brett Ratner
Nothing to Lose, 1997, Dir. Steve Oedekerk
Metro, 1997, Dir. Thomas Carter
Knock Off, 1998, Dir. Tsui Hark
Wild Wild West, 1999, Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld
The Corruptor, 1999, Dir. James Foley
Taxi 2, 2000, Dir Gérard Krawczyk
Shanghai Noon, 2000, Dir. Tom Dey
Replicant, 2001, Dir. Ringo Lam
Bad Company, 2002, Dir. Joel Schumacher
Showtime, 2002, Dir. Tom Dey
I Spy, 2002, Dir. Betty Thomas
Taxi 3, 2003, Dir. Gérard Krawczyk
Shanghai Knights, 2003, Dir. David Dobkin
Cradle 2 The Grave, 2003, Dir. Andrzej Bartkowiak
National Security, 2003, Dir. Dennis Dugan
Hollywood Homicide, 2003, Dir. Ron Shelton
Taxi, 2004, Dir. Tim Story
Dhoom, 2004, Dir. Sanjay Gadhvi
The Man, 2005, Dir. Les Mayfield
Bon Cop, Bad Cop, 2006, Dir. Eric Canuel
Taxi 4, 2007, Dir. Gérard Krawczyk

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