Ten best movie scenes where the undercover cop gets made
21 Jump Street
This is not the best time of year for new movies. So we have Wrath of the Titans, Mirror Mirror and American Reunion. Judging by the box office receipts, you went and saw Hunger Games like everyone else, and were probably were angry that Jennifer Lawrence is too fat and the little black girl from the books was played by a little black girl. You'd love to see Titanic 3D this weekend, but you don't want to pay $25 a person for a 3D markup ticket just to listen to Celine Dion screech at you and watch Kate Winslet lie to Jack about "letting go," considering she immediately lets go. You're probably also not a cat lady.
If we may make a suggestion, go see 21 Jump Street. It's hilarious, entertaining, sweet as hell, and you're gonna be super mad when you watch it on Netflix in two years and realize you missed a great time at the movies -- everyone should experience two idiot cops trying desperately not to blow their cover during the one of the strangest drug trips committed to film. (Spoiler: They succeed.)
To get you in the mood, however, here are ten scenes where the undercover cop was way less successful (heavy spoilers follow):
10. The Mob An interesting little crime movie from 1951, The Mob is a lot like On the Waterfront, just without Brando, with more mob stuff, and pretty much everyone in the entire movie lying about who they are. A plot synopsis is tough, 'cause the thing's pretty convoluted, but lemme say if I wrote it out there'd be a lot of "Then he reveals he's actually..." This is the only film on this list where the main character's cover is broken by a mobster that then reveals he himself is a federal agent (that's how he knows the cop is undercover). The only person who never seems to really get it is Ernest Borgnine (in his first screen performance), the film's villain. When it finally all clicks for him that his buddy is a cop, he gets shot by a sniper who was there just in case Ernest Borgnine figured out his buddy was a cop.
9. Narc Jason Patric's character blowing his cover in Narc is, in effect, the catalyst for the rest of the movie, and we're dropped into it, in its gritty, shaky glory. As Patric chases a drug dealer (and former faux-ally) through the streets of Detroit, the dealer injects an innocent bystander with a fatal amount of drugs and takes a child hostage. Patric shoots the dude before he can hurt the kid, but the bullet also hits the kid's pregnant mom. She miscarries, Patric goes into a years-long depression, and the stage is set for one of the most depressing, miserable (amazing) cop movies ever made.
8. Hard Boiled Possibly the greatest Hong Kong action film ever made, Hard Boiled stars Chow Yun Fat as the "Hot Handed God of Cops" (literal Chinese title translation) alongside Tony Leung as an undercover mole in a powerful Triad group, and is famous for a climactic hospital gunfight that's pretty much big, expensive, and long enough to be its own separate feature. It even includes an impossibly long one-take action sequence through two different floors, which John Woo added because he'd been shooting action for months, and the crew was "getting bored." When I get bored, I like a day off, not 20 times the work and stress. At its core, however, is a dynamic, tried0-and-true story of the layers of corruption an undercover cop has to wade though just so that he doesn't get shot in the face twenty or thirty times. In this case, Leung's character carries out assassinations, beats up really short dudes and even has to machine-gun the hell outta the entire gang he's been in deep cover with for years -- in one sitting! -- to hook up with the new, more powerful, more greasy-haired gang.
Of course, that all goes to hell when he attempts to shoot a police informant in a non-lethal manner (he shoots the guy three or four times just to the side of his heart, which all John Woo characters can easily survive), and Chow Yun Fat takes the wounded informant to the hospital that's actually run by the Triads as a giant gun smuggling operation.
There's no real "a-ha" moment, though, as everyone shows up and Leung starts shooting and kicking the shit out of members of his own gang without even so much as a "Ha ha! I was a cop all along! Even when you guys made me massacre literally hundreds of people!" Joke's on them.
7. White Heat Jimmy Cagney is scary and short and gives an amazing performance that your grandpa can do a shitty impersonation of. He plays an insane crime boss who goes to prison and comes out with a new best friend named Vic Pardo who is maybe...also...a detective. Due to the studio system's nature of using the same twelve actors in every gangster movie ever made, the crime industry is a small industry, and Pardo ends up smack dab in the face of a driver he arrested four years ago. It's super-awkward for everyone involved, like running into your ex at the mall. This happens during a heist, too, so it's even worse. It's like running into your ex at the mall with a mouth full of Cinnabon. Pardo escapes and the cops light all the gangsters up with bullets, 'cause this is a production code era flick, so errybody gotta be punished.
6. Lethal Weapon Old black dude, family man, 'bout to retire. Young insane suicidal white man, sniper, martial arts expert, probably really anti-Semitic deep down. They team up, neither is a fan of the other, 'til they are. Shane Black writes funny things for them to say. There's four of these movies, and for some reason in between the third and fourth, the white guy forgets all the martial arts stuff, leaving him to awkwardly flail at a four-foot Kung Fu expert and get his shoulder dislocated again. You know the story. Eventually it's Christmas and the bad guys are dead and there's racial harmony. We're introduced to the insane white guy when he blows his own cover during a drug bust in a Christmas tree lot. He kinda just does it as a goof. It also gives him the excuse to shoot people. Everyone assumed it was 'cause his wife died and he's sad, but:
A) he always left her really mean racist voicemails and B) put enough drinks in him and he'll blame the whole shootout on Israel.
I believe he yells, "Do you wanna get nuts, let's get nuts!" Two years later Michael Keaton will make fun of him on the Batman set and Tim Burton will film it and leave it in the movie because, fuck it you guys I'm Tim Burton I just wanna get to the point in my career where I can totally coast.
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