Rogue 10: Ten Cinematic Cops Who Aren't Too Big On Paperwork

Tuesday, 23 April 2013 12:45 Written by  iamrogue
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Rogue 10: Ten Cinematic Cops Who Aren't Too Big On Paperwork

In Gangster Squad, out today on Blu-ray, a group of cops are freed from the strictures of their badges, let loose to conduct all-out war against a criminal overlord. 

In order to topple the empire of Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), these incorruptible lawmen led by Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling must abandon their obligations to due process, police reports, admissible evidence, or civil liberties. Basically, the Gangster Squad is too busy shooting tommy guns at really bad guys to concern themselves with all the boring stuff that occupies police here in the real world.

So the home entertainment release of Gangster Squad got everybody at IAR HQ thinking about other cinematic police officers who don't trouble themselves with writing up detailed reports or answering to anyone.  These are the renegades, the loose cannons, the hotshots who, through circumstance or character, are more inclined to action than the arduous intellectual, bureaucratic, and political processes of law enforcement.  These are cops who cause their bosses unimaginable stresses, but of whom even the most chagrined chief must admit, "You're a damn good cop."

It's a breed of cop particular to the movies, as though there's one training academy that instills in them the same disregard for any semblance of actual police work.  This is the kind of cop who is comfortable operating in a moral grey area – in some cases to the point of dangerous irresponsibility – but who generally gets the job done as it can only be done onscreen.

To celebrate this type of movie cop, we've compiled a list of ten law enforcement officials who are obviously unconcerned with doing any paperwork.

Here, in no particular order, are the ten entries that comprise our latest Rogue 10:

Chan Ka Kui (Jackie Chan) - Police Story (1985), Police Story 2 (1988), Supercop (1992), Supercop 2 (1993), Jackie Chan's First Strike (1996)

Ka-Kui doesn't have the moral ambiguity of some of the other characters on this list; he's undoubtedly one of the finest inspectors in Hong Kong, but he spends so much time doing ridiculously dangerous stunts that there's no conceivable way that he has a moment to file reports filled with details like "Suspect fled on commuter bus.  Officer pursued using an umbrella to dangle from commuter bus."

Officer Slater and Officer Michaels (Bill Hader and Seth Rogen) - Superbad (2007)

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Yeah, these two commit all manner of highly illegal infractions – driving drunk, giving booze to a minor, crashing and deliberately lighting their cruiser on fire – but they also provide unrelenting nerdlinger Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) with the best night of his life.  And Slater even demonstrates a commitment to higher justice with an act of casual police brutality against an underage bully.  Wow, when we say it that way, it actually seems less okay.

Murakami (Toshiro Mifune) - Stray Dog (1949)


To be fair, if you lost your pistol, you'd probably be less focused on abiding by every rule and/or writing up reports, especially once someone starts using your gun criminally.  In Akira Kurosawa's proto-procedural, Detective Murakami's Colt is picked from his pocket on the train, leading to a desperate search through post-WWII Tokyo in the middle of a blistering heatwave.

James Gordon (Gary Oldman) - Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012)


Sure, you and I know that Lieutenant (later Commissioner) Jim Gordon is a man of integrity up against a city with entrenched corruption at every level of power.  But allowing a demon-voiced nutjob in a bat costume to run around Gotham sporting an arsenal of wholly-illegal weaponry isn't quite responsible policing.  Nor is faking your own death in a highly public setting so that you can later pose as a S.W.A.T. officer and save the day.

Devon Butler (Norman D. Goldman III) - Cop and 1/2 (1993)


Perhaps the most worrisome officer on this list, Butler appears to have gone through no formal training or examination whatsoever.  In addition to displaying a willful ignorance of basic investigatory methods, Butler treats his solemn duty to protect and serve as pure wish fulfillment, generally behaving like an eight-year old inexplicably given a badge.

Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) - Lethal Weapon (1987)


So he's a suicidal mess of serious personality disorders and post-traumatic stress whose one tenuous connection to the rest of humanity died tragically?  And he's a cop?  That's as bad as it gets, right?  Actually he's also a Vietnam vet, a special forces sniper who is one of the most precise marksman in this particular solar system?  Sounds like exactly the kind of guy you want pulling you over for a broken tail light, right?

Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) - The French Connection (1971), The French Connection II (1975)


Popeye's an alcoholic whose determination and comfort with violence ensure that he's far more at home running down suspects and threatening people than he is at a desk.  Luckily, his partner Buddy (Roy Scheider) sort of evens him out a bit, but Doyle's so doggedly fixed on his goal that he's not going to let bureaucracy stand in his way.  Nor is he going to worry about shooting a guy in the back (to be fair, the guy was fleeing after a crazy car chase in which he definitely killed a cop and commandeered a train).

Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielson) - The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear (1991), The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)

See above video.

"Dirty" Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) - Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), The Dead Pool (1986)


Not everybody has seen Dirty Harry, yet that everyone is familiar with his "Do you feel lucky" move (not at all standard operating procedure) is a testament to how completely Clint Eastwood's terse, squinty San Francisco detective embodies this specific archetype.  He's got no time for your bullshit.  He's got criminals to brutalize.

RoboCop (Peter Weller) - RoboCop (1987)


Alex Murphy was the sort of cop who, aside from some hot doggin', stayed fairly by the book and probably kept up with his paperwork.  That was before he was brutally murdered then brought back to life as a corporate commodity, with OCP attempting to strip away every shred of his humanity.  The obviously bad idea of using a decent man as spare parts for an unstoppable and violent cop-bot somehow turns out okay even after Murphy's memories resurface, sending Robo on a quest for robo-vengeance.  Hey, he's still a hell of a lot safer and more straitlaced than ED-209.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Virtually any law enforcement official played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Steven Stallone, et al.
  • Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) - Serpico (1973)
  • Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) - Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)
  • Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) - Hot Fuzz (2007)
  • Richard Chance (William Peterson) - To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
  • John McClane (Bruce Willis) - Die Hard (1988), Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990), Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)


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