Hot Fuzz (2007)
It is the second film in Edgar Wright’s irreverent Cornetto Trilogy, which chronicles the adventures and misgivings of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz’s predecessor, is a comedy that successfully picks apart the clichés and pitfalls of one of the most oversaturated genres ever. Hot Fuzz tackles the buddy-cop genre in the same way, giving it a new twist with another adventure from the British duo.
Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, an uptight London cop who relocates to a small village called Sandford, where he is befriended by Frost’s character. Together, Frost’s clumsy and enthusiastic persona balances out Pegg’s old-fashioned moodiness as they uncover an increasingly puzzling conspiracy. The most popular trilogy, Hot Fuzz was followed in 2013 by The World’s End. There are plenty of running jokes and Wright’s signature sharp references to be found here, but for all the bombastic twists and deliberately convoluted plot, nothing compares to the on-screen ‘bromance’ and flawless chemistry between the two oddball leads.
Hard Boiled (1992)
This unapologetic thriller set in Hong Kong’s underworld has stood the test of time thanks to its sheer creativity and innovative stunts. John Woo’s attention to detail and flawless execution, meticulously choreographing each action sequence and utilizing clever framing even as it is charmingly self-aware of its over-the-top nature, make the film feel fresh even though it is just a genre film.
The movie centers on an undercover cop who has gained the confidence of the ringleaders of a local crime syndicate in order to sabotage a big operation with the help of the police. A hard-boiled cop loses his partner in a shootout with the same gang and swears vengeance on them. In a memorable second half, the cops face off against the gang in a public hospital in one of the most jaw-dropping action sequences ever filmed. However, as awesome as the explosive climax is, Tony Leung and Chow Yun-Fat’s charm and comedic delivery give this classic an unbeatable rewatchability.
The Nice Guys (2016)
In this 1970s noir, Ryan Gosling plays a private eye and Russell Crowe plays a hired goon, who is eventually hired to investigate the disappearance of a missing girl and the mysterious death of a porn star. It keeps a lighthearted approach while making plenty of references to early noirs and paying homage to detective flicks like The Long Goodbye, The Big Lebowski, and Inherent Vice. Additionally, it knows how to use humor and goofiness to tackle serious themes like depression, loneliness, and hopelessness. Adding to that the mid-70’s Los Angeles setting and a labyrinthine conspiracy discovered by a laid-back, easy-going protagonist, the parallels are obvious.
Shane Black directs the film, a man who knows everything about the genre. He is renowned for writing Lethal Weapon at age 22, a movie that ignited the buddy-cop craze in North America, as well as its sequel and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
This David Fincher thriller is not a lighthearted comedy, but it can’t be understood without the bond and dynamic between its two leads. Two homicide detectives, played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, team up to hunt down a sociopathic serial killer who murders people in retribution for committing one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Somerset, Freeman’s character, is a hard-nosed veteran close to leaving the police force. Throughout the movie, he mentors Mills, a cocky, erratic rookie with a lot of temperamental issues that cloud his judgment.
In a similar vein to his own Zodiac, Fincher slowly shifts the focus from the mystery at hand to the toll it takes on the two people solving it. The climax of the film comes at how the duo copes with the realization of his twisted agenda, and how it fundamentally changes them. Nihilism culminates in one of the most gut-wrenching and clever plot twists ever.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Lethal Weapon is often referred to as the father of buddy-cop films, and with good reason. We can’t overstate the impact the movie had upon release. With a genre filled to the brim with early 80’s cheesiness, it was a necessary addition to a genre that could accommodate most grounded narratives. After a series of watered-down sequels that veer into self-comedy, it’s easy to ignore the original now. The result was a combination of a troubled, rogue cop with a laid-back, family man.
Shane Black credits The French Connection and Dirty Harry as inspiration for creating his own police procedural, and the dynamic between the two leads is extremely similar to those films. It is Danny Glover who elevates the movie with dramatic performance and a more subdued character arc than Gibson. With its endlessly quotable lines, glossy coloring, and daring set pieces, you’d be hard-pressed to find a buddy-cop movie more influential than Lethal Weapon.
Tiger on the Beat (1988)
This 1988 film stars Chow Yun-Fat as a lazy, wisecracking veteran police officer in another Hong Kong production. As a team, Chow and Conan Lee investigate the murder of a heroin trafficker. Despite initially becoming disapproving of each other, Chow and Michael gradually bond and respect each other in Tiger on the Beat, adopting a buddy-cop trope that is common in buddy films.
With stylized gunfights and comedic tone mixed with dramatic shifts, the movie is soaked in John Woo’s bombastic blueprint. Like Hard Boiled, this film is filled with impressive stunts and clever camerawork, which is really the highlight of the movie. The chemistry between Lee and Chow doesn’t reach the heights that Chow and Leung achieved in Hard Boiled, but overall this movie perfectly embodies the campiness of gun-fu movies, while paying homage to its greatest inspiration.