4 Hilarious Tropes Exclusive To 80s Buddy Cop Movies
Remember the '80s? I do. What a carefree time it was for us all, there was ... I dunno, the Noid? I don't remember the '80s very well, that intro was a lie to make me seem like a bigshot. But I have seen their movies and am most enamored with them because what a decade for film -- big hair and ugly clothes and so much action. Some of the best action occurred in the '80s and man, it was weird. But it was weird in a way that you might not notice unless you start comparing it to modern action, especially cop movies, which I totally did on your behalf so you don't have to waste any of your precious time, you important, busy person, you. And look how good looking you are. So good looking. On to the article.
The Sweet, Sweet Saxophone
No police got any work done for a solid ten years of film unless there was sax music in the background. The sax music starts almost right away in Beverly Hills Cop. And it never ends in the Lethal Weapon series. Also 48 Hours. Also Tango & Cash. Also K-9. Also Turner & Hooch. There's just a buttload of sax going on and how could there not be? Remember that sax player from The Lost Boys, which I know isn't a cop movie but more than adequately displays the sheer animal magnetism of the mighty sax with that slimy fellow? Just on stage buttfucking that saxophone in the moonlight while crowds of onlookers feel their gonads swell. That guy cemented sax as the coolest thing since someone sliced bread while a greasy, shirtless man buttfucked a sax in the background. Know what happens if you add a little ham and spicy mustard to that equation? Greasy Sax Buttfuck And Ham Sandwich. Delicious.
Contrast that with any cop movie in the last decade. Ride Along is heavy on bass and drums, not a damn sax chord to be heard though it does open with some Busta Rhymes about which I can't complain at all, because if I could get Busta Rhymes to just follow me and narrate my day, I'd be a pretty happy guy. I'd also do way more stuff that involves me strutting. Cop Out, The Heat, 21 Jump Street, Let's Be Cops; if any of them are using saxophones, they're keeping that shit super subtle.
Notice the movie on the marquee. THE SAX CIRCLE IS COMPLETE!
Some have argued that this is just a change in the musical landscape. Huey Lewis was awfully popular in the '80s, you don't hear him anymore do you? To that I say, shut up. Huey Lewis is awesome and should be played all the time like he is in my bathroom and also, please refer back to greasy sax guy in Lost Boys. Obviously the sax is timeless. It's just cop movies that changed in an effort to seem less saxy and more something else. Uncool? Missing sax music? I can't explain the motivations, I'm just here to let you know that sax music is the foundation on which fictional police work is based and modern directors really ought to get back to that if they want anyone to watch their damn movies. If you're making a cop movie, you sax the shit out of that score. History will reward you.
The Quality Of Henchmen
Any good cop movie features a master villain and henchmen. The main villain always goes down in the end (not necessarily in an oral sex way, which isn't what I meant so why did you bring it up? Sicky. Send me a DM later, though, we'll talk), but the henchmen are peppered throughout the middle to keep shit interesting. Or it used to be that way, because modern henchmen seem to have all gotten their henching degrees from Dungwater County's Henching And Sucking Community College in the remedial class taught by the guy who smells like salami and wears the same pants every day.
This is what a PhD in henching looks like.
In 48 Hours, the movie opens with a pickup truck out in the boonies running up on a chain gang. The driver is a big Native American dude named Billy Bear, played by Sonny Landham who you may also remember as Billy in Predator. He spent the '80s playing bad-ass Billies. He frees the main villain from the gang and goes on to kick ass on his behalf until his demise later in the film and never once changing out of his leather pants. Can you even imagine doing evil for two straight days in leather pants? That's work ethic. He's a good henchman.
In the movie The Heat the henchman is literally Michael McDonald, former cast member of MadTV best known for playing hyperactive manchild Stuart. Now I have nothing against McDonald, I thought he played the role just fine, but he's no Billy Bear and I think the dude wore jeans. You know who one of the henchmen in Ride Along is? Bryan Callen, who's also a former cast member of MadTV. MadTV is where villains come from in modern movies. And until Miss Swan shows up wearing leather pants trying to kill Jason Statham in a movie, I will remain unconvinced.
I want Bolo Yeung from Enter The Dragon-level henchmen, man. Gary Busey in Lethal Weapon, back before he mentally entered that chaos dimension. Literally every bad guy in Tango & Cash but especially that guy whose jaw looks like Popeye's jaw fucked Jay Leno's jaw and slapped the baby on his face. Jonathan Banks in Beverly Hills Cop was phenomenally off-putting and went on to make a career out of playing a guy you'd rather not be alone with. In Beverly Hills Cop 2 it's 7-foot-tall Amazonian beast-woman Brigitte Nielsen, who later in life may have had a sexual relationship with Flava Flav, a sentence so insane my copy of Microsoft Word surpassed spell check in favor of a reality check. But it's true and makes her a formidably awesome henchlady. Now compare that to Jillian from Workaholics as the number two villain in 22 Jump Street. Yes she's hilarious, but she's not an ogress who bumped uglies with a rapper who may have been originally from German folklore.
Fish Out Of Water
The key to a buddy cop film is the dynamic between the buddy cops. They can't both be responsible, competent police officers who listen to authority and play by rules other than their own, that's absurd. One has to be infinitely stupider than the other in a way that makes no sense whatsoever and could never happen in real life. Detective Riggs is borderline insane in the first Lethal Weapon and known to be suicidal. How is he allowed to continue working? Doesn't he throw a man off a roof and go with him? Is that regulation? And Nick Nolte gets partnered with a currently incarcerated felon in 48 Hours. He just roams the streets with him to help him track down a suspect in a way that any actual cop should have been able to easily do.
It is, however, enshrined in cinema history for giving Trump the idea for his haircut.
Worse than "cop with an ill-suited partner" is the odd glut of '80s "cop with a who-gives-a-shit partner." Like Turner & Hooch and K-9. Cop And A Half. Theodore Rex. That last one partners Whoopi Goldberg and a dinosaur. A goddamn dinosaur. In the '80s, no one gave a shit. Was it all that cocaine? We can never know but I'll go on record saying yes. Definitely all that cocaine. And for Theodore Rex you can assume that was some badly stepped-on shit with a lot of additives that someone's dealer found in a bag in an alley.
Then they wrote the subsequent scene into the script.
The modern cop movie has abandoned the proud tradition of teaming one super cop with one ass clown. Instead it's one kind of goofy cop with another, differently goofy cop. For instance, Ride Along. Ice Cube playing the role of Ice Cube is partnered with Kevin Hart playing the role of mostly an idiot. Contrast this with Central Intelligence which partners The Rock as vaguely uncomfortable The Rock with Kevin Hart as slightly less of an idiot. And yes, I know in Central Intelligence they're not technically cops but come on. It's a buddy cop movie.
The Jump Street movies were so lazy in their cop partnering dynamic they didn't even bother to really hash out personality traits as opposed to going with partnering the unbearably handsome Channing Tatum with the unbearably Jonah-y Jonah Hill. Jonah Hill is Channing Tatum's Theodore Rex.
A Lack Of Bumbling Jackassery
The most stark and head-scratching difference between an '80s cop movie and a modern cop movie is the proliferation of jackassery. Modern movies are just rife with shenanigans that would never pass muster in '80s flicks. Sure, Axel Foley was a wiseacre, but even Judge Reinhold was a fairly competent character in the long run. Beverly Hills Cop and others like it were action movies with comedy in them. Now look at Central Intelligence again. You have a chubby naked kid with The Rock's face CG'd onto him dancing around making everyone feel weird. Then when The Rock shows up in his carved-from-solid-marble current iteration, and he's still an off-putting weirdo.
Not that I'd say that to his face.
Modern buddy cop comedies put too much emphasis on the goofball comedy part. It's like they looked at Theodore Rex and figured that was the absolute pinnacle of just silly ass shit and could never be repeated. So instead, we have to keep everyone "real" but just make them more and more preposterous as people. Is there anyone in the world who is actually like Chris Tucker's character in the regrettable Rush Hour franchise? The only way he'd ever get hired as a cop would be if the chief was actively experiencing a mescaline freakout during the interview process and mistook Tucker for a genie of some kind. How could Melissa McCarthy's character in The Heat become a detective? She has a storehouse of illegal weapons in her home and clearly suffers some kind of antisocial personality disorder.
For the sake of comedy, the modern buddy cop movie wants you to believe two people who have no business owning firearms are thrust together in a way that allows them to overcome entire crime syndicates despite how they're presented in a way that makes you suspect they couldn't care for a goldfish without starting a fire. Sure you can laugh at Central Intelligence, but wouldn't your marrow freeze in your coccyx if you thought for a second America's intelligence capabilities were in any way governed by, monitored by or influenced by this?
They CG'd The Rock's actual nipples on as well. He insisted on it.
The big difference between then and now seems to be essentially that the characters in '80s cop movies were never the butt of jokes. Eddie Murphy was always sympathetic because he seemed like a good guy, even when he was a felon in 48 Hours. And maybe he got tossed out of a plate glass window, but he didn't fall through a plate glass window. Kevin Hart would fall through a plate glass window. Martin Riggs would be the one who pushed him.
Are modern buddy cops boobs because it makes them more relatable than mildly sociopathic super cops in the '80s? Maybe. I don't want to relate to super cops, though. I want to watch Riggs dislocate his shoulder 15 times to escape implausible torture situations and then violate any number of laws to get vengeance and only be held accountable in such a way that he's looked over for a promotion. Also, maybe I want to see dinosaurs. Like Lethal Weapon 5 should have dinosaurs.
You should follow Ian Fortey on Twitter because that's what makes the flowers grow.
For more check out 4 Bizarrely Specific Rules That Exist in Movie Universes and 12 Specific Scenes That Superhero Movies Have Perfected.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out 5 Reasons Movies Keep Getting Worse, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!
Also follow us on Facebook, because you're never too old for our shit.