It’s time for a new plunge into the depths of Netflix Watch Instantly, where we watch the movies so you don’t have to. This time around, it’s gritty cop dramas. You know, the kind of movies that The French Connection spawned, an army of tough, hard-drinking cops wearing ugly winter wear, shotgunning thugs, before running them over in their Chevy Impalas. It’s time to devote an installment of Netflix Streaming Safari to…Tough Cops!
The Seven-Ups (1973) – from the team behind The French Connection comes this grim cop flick that’s basically a two-hander for French Connection co-stars Roy Scheider and Tony Lo Bianco who play childhood friends now on opposite sides of the law and order line. Light on action (except for a deeply insane car chase in the middle of the film) it still weaves a spell thanks to some really moody cinematography and editing, and to the heat radiating off Lo Bianco and Scheider. Both men were professional boxers turned actors, and their scenes together have all the frission of a hard-hitting bout in the ring.
Busting (1974) – action journeyman Peter Hyams (Outland, The Relic) turns in what is probably his least slick but most exciting flick in this riff on 1974′s other buddy-cop movie, Freebie and the Bean. But whereas Freebie had Alan Arkin and James Caan in the lead roles, Busting features the far weirder combo of Elliot Gould and alleged wife-killer Robert Blake. Full of downbeat 70′s cynicism, studded with bloody-knuckled, high caliber setpieces, and anchored by Blake and Gould’s sardonic, world-weary performances (their deepest emotion seems to be a burnt-out shrug), Busting is a classic that more people need to see.
Cruising (1980) – if you want to see Al Pacino’s gay serial killer movie, then you really should try to see it on the big screen where its Dante’s Inferno plunge into the seedy side of New York’s pre-AIDS nightlife shimmers and gleams like a dark n’twisted fairy tale. But if there’s no time-warp movie theater near you showing this poisonous little slice of mind poison, then you could do a lot worse than seeing it on Instant Watch. Pacino plays an enthusiastic greenhorn cop who goes undercover to catch a serial killer preying on gay men in New York City. Is it good? Not really. But no one can accuse William Friedkin of following up The French Connection and The Exorcist with a movie that plays it safe. (Read my longer review of it)
The Unjust (2010) – it may be modern, and it may be Korean, but The Unjust is the direct descendant of these grimy cop thrillers from the 70′s. Ryoo Seung-Wan’s movie is an eerily literal recreation of these American flicks full of corruption and set in cities sinking in tarpits of sin. A corrupt cop and a corrupt district attorney carry out a proxy war via a gangland conflict, while a school girl slasher keeps cutting up kids and drawing pressure from upstairs to find the killer, or at least a convincing fall guy to take the rap. One of the most cynical movies about the criminal justice business made since the 1970′s, the byzantine plotting, hyper-stylized characters, and stop-on-a-dime plot reversals make this one a more than satisfying slab of retro noir.