The Good Guys

I’m done with school, I’m out in the world with a good many of those items that we chase after and desire, now either in my possession, or they’ve become forgotten dreams, or, they are current items on my credit card statement. There’s a lot of truth to the expression, ‘been there, done that’ — and while it is not my mantra, it does fit comfortably.

But it wasn’t that long ago that hanging out in a tree fort, hikes in the forest with the dog, and Saturday afternoon at the movies were very important to me. And in those days, when it was summer, and there was no school, we’d play cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, or G I Joe. It was fun to be a good guy. You could be heroic, brave, never run of make-believe ammo, and it was exciting to emulate heroes.

Growing up on Long Island, in a North Shore commuter town about forty miles east of Manhattan, we watched TV, played baseball, and absorbed as many movies as possible. And we loved those movie heroes. And today is no different … I still love my movie heroes.

Sorry, we won’t be talking about iconic cinema heroes like Indiana Jones, James Bond, Rocky Balboa, and Han Solo. We’ll leave them on the shelf for now. For me, so many of the cinematic good guys are cops. I’m not talking about the guys in uniforms that walk a beat, or handle crowd control or traffic. While exemplary, it is not the uniformed police that we will discuss here.

It’s the cool guys with gold shields — the detectives. We’ll start with Steve McQueen in Bullitt (1968). McQueen died in 1980, and had he lived, he’d be in his 80’s now. This movie did wonders for the Ford Mustang, turtle necks under tweed sports coats, and McQueen was the epitome of ‘cool’ as Detective Frank Bullitt — “Look, you work your side of the street, and I’ll work mine”. If you looked up ‘cool’ in a dictionary back then, you might have seen McQueen’s image. It wasn’t until much later that Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett and Phillip Michael Thomas as Ricardo Tubbs in Miami Vice became the image of cool.

Speaking of which, Miami Vice the TV series was the rage in the years 1984 to 1989. The series was produced by Michael Mann Productions. In 2006, Miami Vice was redone for the movies by Michael Mann.

The stars were Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. Colin did the Don Johnson role of Sonny Crockett, and Jamie portrayed Detective Ricardo Tubbs.

Jose Yero: I like you. You are tough. But I don’t like your partner (indicating Det. Crockett)
Det. Ricardo Tubbs: Hey, do you want to fuck with my partner or do business with us?

In 1973, Al Pacino starred in Serpico, a landmark movie. This movie wasn’t about being the last man standing or wearing cool threads. Instead it portrayed an honest cop who blew the whistle on corruption, and then took a few bullets for his troubles.

Frank Serpico did his best work undercover and on the inside. He went against the grain, and we loved him for it. The tag line from the movie: “Many of his fellow officers considered him the most dangerous man alive – an honest cop.”

Working all alone, against impossible odds, in a terrific thriller series, we have Detective John McClane, a New York cop first played by Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988).

This was a heady, thrilling trip as Willis as McClane, “Yippee-ki-yay motherfucker”, was just not going to be stopped, as he blew away a dozen or so bad guys to save the hostages.

In the last Die Hard sequel, – you can see Willis reprise his role as John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard. Though this film aka Die Hard 4 arrives 19 years after the first Die Hard, Willis still has the chops.

Matt Farrell: [Astonished] You just killed a helicopter with a car!

John McClane :[deadpan] Yeah, I was out of bullets…

In another thriller, Keanu Reeves assays the role of FBI Special Agent Johnny Utah who is on the trail of surfing bank robbers. This 1991 movie is called Point Break, and while you may think that chasing the crooks by jumping out of plane without a parachute was stupid rather than heroic, it was fun to watch, and had plenty of thrilling action.
Game time — when Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) is cornered by Johnny Utah, near the end of the movie, we got this memorable line, “You crossed the line. People trusted you and they died. You gotta go down.”


But not all police work involves physical work that’s above and beyond. Sometimes it is just grit, and stick-to-it-ness. And who are better examples than Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as the detectives chasing the psychotic killer in Seven (1995). Bet you forgot their names in the film.

 

 

MF: “This guy’s methodical, exacting, and worst of all, patient.”
BP: “He’s a nut-bag! Just because the fucker’s got a library card doesn’t make him Yoda!”
And aren’t serial killers always worth chasing? Three years after Bullitt, Dirty Harry (1971) again put San Francisco on the cinematic map. Clint Eastwood as Detective Harry Callahan chased a killer in this one, and while Dirty Harry became a franchise, Clint became a megastar. The most famous quote from the first Dirty Harry film is below –

 

 

“But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

 

As Bullitt had the best car chase ever, it was nearly matched in another chase — only this time it was a car chasing a subway train in Brooklyn. Gene Hackman as Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle didn’t have the cool of Steve McQueen. Stakeouts — “This is Doyle. I’m sittin’ on Frog One” — and stale coffee didn’t have the same kind of cachet as McQueen’s girl friend in Bullitt, Jacqueline Bisset, but The French Connection gave the then 41-year-old Hackman’s career a tremendous boost.


We have three more policemen for you. One is from the past — Kevin Costner as Elliot Ness paired up with the former James Bond actor – Sean Connery , to try and take down the famed Chicago gang boss in The Untouchables.


Do you remember the tagline: AL CAPONE? He ruled Chicago with absolute power. No one could touch him. No one could stop him. Until Elliot Ness and a small force of men swore they’d bring him down.


Another cop who we loved was a wacky and funny guy, but as fearless as any of the characters named above. I’m talking about another franchiseMel Gibson as Sergeant Martin Riggs“Let’s make like the shepherd and get the flock out of here,” in Lethal Weapon (1987).


Is there a better description for Riggs than suicidal loose cannon maverick cop?


And our last hero cop — the last of our cinematic good guys for this month is from the future. Will Smith, as Homicide Detective Del Spooner does battle as a cop chasing a robot named Sonny.

 

Del Spooner: “You are a clever imitation of life… Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot take a blank canvas and turn it into a masterpiece?
Sonny: Can you?”

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The film was I, Robot (2004), and it too had a thrilling car chase, and despite the fact that it wasn’t real — we all gripped our seats in excitement as we watched the scene play out before us.

This list is virtually the A-List of Hollywood finest actors and some of these movies were their finest moments. And isn’t that the essence of a hero — a finest moment. Life has its ups and downs, its thrilling moments, as well as those times when we are sorely disappointed. But in the movies — they want you to leave the theater happy.

At JustMeMike’s – The Arts we want you to be happy as well. So we will say adios to car-chases, stakeouts, shootouts, and those gruff, angry, and most of the time dead-wrong police captains that our hero cops report to. Bring your thinking caps. Nothing heavy mind you. Simply show up here when you’re ready and off we’ll go. No seat belts required. As Arnold once said –

Hasta la vista! Or something like that.

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3 thoughts on “The Good Guys

  1. Continuing our conversation about the trials and tribulations of Miami Vice the movie, I agree with almost everyone of your choices listed above. Steve McQueen–cool as Miles Davis. And while it has arguably the best car chase scene in movie history, it was not the special effects or some other glitzy stuff that carried the movie, it was a great story, with great dialog, not some collage of fancy this or fancy that made it a great movie–and I think the same can be said of almost all of your choices above. Again this is just one man’s opinion.

  2. Hi – thanks for the comments and thanks for stopping by.

    As always – one man speaks for one man – himself. Since I didn’t ask for submissions or other guys choices for the good guys, it is perfectly alright to agree or disagree.

    By the way – speaking of Bullett, no one ever mentions Robert Vaughan’s icy bad guy in this film. And you know what else was great – when Frank Bullitt goes back to the hotel room next day – and walks in and just looks around.

    You can just imagine his mind absorbing the trajectories, angles, and access routes. This is just marvelous film-making. Not a word spoken, not a shot fired, and 40 years after I first saw I can still bring this to mind.

    jmm

  3. Yes, after seeing bullet, I still live in fear of THE ORGANIZATION–but not McQueen cool as a cucumber–let us not forget that Robert Duval made a great cab driver too!

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