“Bad Boys” (1995)
By now, the story had been told dozens of times, but “Bad Boys” began life as a buddy cop comedy so malleable its original stars were supposed to be Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz. While that would have been an appealing duo to a certain section of old “SNL” fans, few knew what to expect from the teaming of sitcom rapper Will Smith, standup comedian Martin Lawrence, and a little-known commercials director named Michael Bay. On what was then considered a limited budget, Bay gave Lawrence and Smith free reign to shape their characters, allowing race to be at the forefront of a big studio film with no subversive intentions, only the desire to showcase fast cars, big explosions, and sleek gunfights. What resulted was a modest crowd-pleaser that put Bay on the map and turned Smith and Lawrence into major movie stars (though each would have different levels of success). By the time “Bad Boys 2” came around, Bay was one of the biggest directors in Hollywood, Smith was an Oscar-nominated headliner, and Lawrence was... available, and so the second film allowed the camaraderie to take a backseat to some of the most breathless and complex action sequences of the modern era. But it’s in that first film where Bay established himself as an un-ironic appreciator of fast-moving action interspersed with comedic interplay that served a strong legacy of buddy cop comedies.
“Beverly Hills Cop” (1984)
It’s funny how so many buddy cop movies began life as an entirely different genre. “Beverly Hills Cop” was initially meant to serve as a potential franchise for star Sylvester Stallone. Allegedly, those efforts became the actioner “Cobra,” which features several laughs of the unintentional variety, allowing Eddie Murphy to shape what was left to his specific skill set. The fish-out-of-water setup proved beneficial, with Murphy as Detroit cop Axel Foley, sent to sunny California to investigate a grisly murder case. While “Beverly Hills Cop” is now considered more of a starring vehicle for the ascendant comedian, it was also a showcase for the surprising chemistry between Foley and a couple of fellow detectives who provided professional tension but also admiring support. While some buddy cop comedies seemed built on the antagonism between mixed races, “Beverly Hills Cop” actually places one over the other, honoring the outsider’s point of view over the establishment, illustrating how a little tolerance can help everyone work together just a bit easier. As Murphy grew bigger, Foley himself grew smaller, and that sentiment vanished: by “Beverly Hills Cop III” Murphy’s Foley seemed to be a faceless company man. Murphy has since revisited Foley in a “Beverly Hills Cop” television series, but the pilot (from Shawn Ryan, creator of “The Shield”) was not picked up, leading some to wonder what Foley would look like now that he’s probably the very face of the establishment he used to challenge.
“Hot Fuzz” (2007)
We’d be hard pushed to point to anyone who understands better than Edgar Wright and his frequent collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, that if you’re going to send up a genre successfully, you have to love it, unironically and with your whole heart, to begin with. And that’s really what leaps off the screen in “Hot Fuzz,” the trio’s tribute to/pastiche of the buddy cop movie that displays just as much real affection for the films it parodies as it does sharp-eyed dissection of their more ridiculous tropes and cliches. But it’s also a mark of the film-as-its-own-thing that as much of the humor (and it is very, very funny) comes from character-based moments between real-life buddies Frost and Pegg as does from winkily parodying “Bad Boys” or “Point Break,” and that’s also where it derives a great deal of its surprisingly warm heart. Surprisingly warm, for a film that features the single best ever roundhouse kick delivered to a pensioner, that is. Its plotting may start to fray a bit in the last act, but it’s packed with amusingly hammy cameos and surreal detours (Jim Broadbent’s delivery of “great big bushy beard” is a gift to cinema that will never stop giving) and a deeply dotty Englishness that more than compensate. Nutty, sweet and good to the last crunchy bite, “Hot Fuzz” is a giant delicious Cornetto of a film, and we’re looking forward to seeing how “The World’s End,” the third (after ‘Fuzz’ and “Shaun of the Dead”) in the loose trilogy, stacks up by comparison.
“Running Scared” (1986)
Unfairly overlooked in the annals of “the Captain’s gonna have our asses for this!” biracial buddy movies, “Running Scared” with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines is actually great fun, even if it breaks one of the basic founding rules of the genre in that the two cops in question actually like each other from the get-go (they’ve been partners and best friends a long time already it seems). Since there’s no “I’m not working with this rookie!” or “My partner is out of control!” conflict for the two to overcome, it could be suggested that as a duo they don’t have much of an arc (gonna retire; not gonna retire, is about it), nor are they particularly differentiated from each other -- they’re two quick, witty wisecracking sides of the same coin. But really, it hardly matters when the dialogue is this rapid-fire and the chemistry between the leads is this convincing. The plot’s silly enough and a little convoluted (Jimmy Smits’ bad guy is not given much in the way of script -- except for memorably bellowing “My coke, my COKE!” at one point, but Joe Pantoliano has fun with a snitchy role that anticipates Joe Pesci’s in the “Lethal Weapon” sequels), but really this is more comedy than action movie and all the drug busts and subplots about a pair of cocky young undercover cops are just there to provide hooks for Hines and Crystal to hang some one-liners off. And Dan Hedaya turns in something of a definitive angry-boss-who’s-really-on-their-side performance too. So everyone delivers the banter with the timing and precision of pros, with Hines really showing the mettle that had him cast in the Eddie Murphy role in “48 Hrs” (he had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with “The Cotton Club” -- what could have been!), and between the repartee and the nice Chicago-ey feel, with a car chase that happens on the L a special action highlight, it’s kind of an irresistible package. Which marks it out as a neglected high point in the erratic career of director Peter Hyams too.
“The Other Guys” (2010)
A cop chained to his desk after shooting Derek Jeter. A mild-mannered forensic accountant looking to get some respect. A police chief who moonlights at Bed Bath & Beyond and has an uncanny knack for quoting TLC even though he has no idea who they are. What could possibly go wrong? Well, in Adam McKay's "The Other Guys," everything goes wrong and that's the point. The balls-out hilarious comedy teams mismatched detectives Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell, wonderfully earnest) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg, perfectly Huckabees-esque), but don't ask us what the plot is, because we forgot, and it doesn't matter. Ferrell and Wahlberg are simply magic together, barreling through a movie that has no qualms stopping for metaphors about lions and tunas, or for a ridiculous tableau of a drunken night on the town. Not to mention random running gags about hobo orgies led by Dirty Mike And The Boys and more. In short, this movie just strings along and endless supply of great scenes and gags, powered by two actors who are totally game, hinging onto a story about an evil businessman or something. But you're too busy laughing to care what it all amounts too.