10 Best Undercover Cop Movies
By Shane Rivers
Fast & Furious races into theaters on April 3rd, and Paul Walker will return as Brian O’Conner, the undercover cop featured in The Fast and the Furious and its sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious. That got me to thinking: what are the 10 best undercover cop movies? The options weren’t as plentiful as I’d first imagined, but here’s what I managed to come up with.
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Kindergarten Cop – Okay, I realize that this Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle is mostly silly, but who didn’t find “It’s not a too-mah” at least a little bit funny? Arnold plays Detective John Kimble, a badass cop who goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher in order to track down the ex-wife and son of a murderous drug dealer. One of several films designed to show off the Governator’s lighter side (which unfortunately culminated in Jingle All the Way).
The Fast and the Furious – Vin Diesel and Paul Walker show off their muscles and muscle cars, while Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez combine equal parts attitude and sexuality. While some audience members were busy drooling over the hot bods in the film, just as many were admiring the assortment of cars ranging from a 1969 Dodge Charger to a 1997 Toyota Supra.
Donnie Brasco – Johnny Depp plays an FBI agent who infiltrates the mob in this 1997 film based on real-life events. Al Pacino is great as his burnout hitman mentor, Lefty Ruggiero, and Michael Madsen even manages to channel a bit of the unbridled menace he displayed in Reservoir Dogs. If you’re a fan of mob movies, this is one to add to the list.
Rush – A veteran narcotics office (Jason Patric) chooses an inexperienced female cop (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as his new partner. Their goal is to take down Will Gaines (Gregg Allman), a local club owner and supposed drug kingpin. Along the way, they use drugs, falsify information, and generally do everything that a cop isn’t supposed to do. Still, it’s a lot of fun to watch.
Point Break – Who can forget the scene where undercover fed Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is so overcome by his man-crush on Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) that he fires his gun repeatedly into the air rather than shoot the fleeing robber/surf guru? Gary Busey shows a hint of the disheveled mess he would later become off-screen, and Lori Petty provides the love interest. This film might have been viewed as a train wreck if it wasn’t so damned entertaining (think Road House with surfboards).
Face/Off – Director John Woo finally gets creative control of a Hollywood movie, and the result is predictably filled with slow-motion gunplay and lots of overacting. John Travolta plays FBI agent Sean Archer, while Nicolas Cage is his nemesis, Castor Troy. Following an only-in-Hollywood surgical procedure, both men end up switching faces and roles. Zany as hell and filled with action, you won’t want to miss an Olivia Newton-John version of “Over the Rainbow” during an intense shootout.
State of Grace – Terry Noonan (Sean Penn) returns to Hell’s Kitchen and is welcomed back by childhood pals Jackie (Gary Oldman) and Frankie Flannery (Ed Harris). Jackie and Frankie are members of the Irish Mob, but Terry has a little surprise in store: he’s become a cop since leaving the old neighborhood. A film about loyalty, love and liquor.
Training Day – LAPD cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) wants to be a narcotics officer, so he undergoes an on-the-streets evaluation by maverick Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). What follows is a fast-paced look at the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, with Denzel chewing up every piece of scenery he can get his hands on. The film also features an excellent supporting cast including Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Harris Yulin, Macy Gray and Eva Mendes.
Eastern Promises – Viggo Mortensen plays a Russian mobster in London. When he’s not making eyes at midwife Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts), he’s busy chopping up bodies and looking after the violently unpredictable son (Vincent Cassel) of his boss. He even has time to engage in a life-or-death struggle–while completely nude–with two knife-wielding assassins in a steam bath. How’s that for multitasking?
Reservoir Dogs – Director Quentin Tarantino made his debut with this bloody tale of a botched bank robbery and its aftermath. Throw in an undercover cop (Tim Roth), a dancing psycho (Michael Madsen), and a hard-bitten professional thief (Harvey Keitel), and you’ve got yourself one helluva indie flick . Filled with all manner of pop culture riffs and extreme violence, Reservoir Dogs easily tops my list of the 10 best undercover cop movies ever made.