Movies about brave boys (and girls) in blue seem to have one thing in common: straight-up awful police work. The history of terrible cops in cinema is not a short one: how many times has Rookie Red Shirt been unable to keep even one eye on the killer handcuffed next to him? If Retiring Officer Rotund could run up three steps without getting winded, his police drama would have been gone in 60 seconds. There's certainly no shortage of movie cops who are really bad at their jobs.
Who qualifies as the worst movie cops? Well, Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) makes some pretty amateur mistakes in Point Break, but, hey, they serve the plot, so who's counting? Basic Instinct, for all the cleverness of the plot, social satire, and oo-la-la sexy moments, has some awful movie police work. Whether it be a result of deus ex machina, poor character work, or scenes that were left on the cutting room floor, the cops on this list need to be put on leave stat, pending a review of their snafus. Because there's not enough suspension of disbelief in the universe to justify the following shoddy police work.
When getting kidnapped in Los Angeles, pray the stars of Moonlighting and Family Matters are there to rescue you. In the world of Die Hard, they're the only two policemen who know their backsides from a bearer bond. These guys, John McClane (Bruce Willis, duh) and Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), seem to have a pretty good idea of how to handle a very delicate situation.
Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson (Paul Gleason), the officer in charge, makes a huge mess of things when he orders a sneak attack with a tank right on the front steps of Nakatomi Plaza, the building in which terrorists have a lot of hostages. Because tanks are so sneaky. Then you have the feds, led by FBI Special Agent Big Johnson (Robert Davi) and FBI Agent Little Johnson (Grand L. Bush), whose element of surprise consists of an even quieter helicopter. Against bad guys using massive firepower clearly capable of blowing a chopper out of the sky.
Even assuming these vehicles were able to subdue the terrorists, isn't there some worry of hurting hostages, too? Maybe a quieter breach next time?
Ironically, Detective John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a much gentler kindergarten teacher than what many of you probably experienced. His work as an educator is well above average. However, at the center of this equal parts charming and violent family comedy is the darkest premise in the history of cinema. "Let's use a class full of adorable five year olds as human bait for a drug-pushing murderer. And we'll throw in a ferret for some laughs."
Ferrets are creepy. And that's horrible, horrible police work. Plus why is John Kimble Austrian? Has anyone ever bothered explaining that?
#16 on The Best Movies of 1990
#77 on Movies That Need Sequels
Yes, it's the story of a depressed billionaire who dresses as a bat, so expectations for the quality of police work should be tempered. But, since Christopher Nolan elevated the comic genre with his remarkable Dark Knight trilogy, grounding the films in all-too-realistic Pittsburgh, the police must be held accountable. Lest you forget, Nolan also directed Insomnia, a thriller about cops. He must be brought to task.
So what goes wrong in The Dark Knight Rises? Well, the entire police force gets trapped underground, except for Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and Foley (Vision Quest star Matthew Modine). Not a well conceived plan. There really wasn't a single person on the Gotham police force who could've said, "Hey, guys? Maybe we should leave, like, at least maybe a dozen guys above ground, just in case Bane is tricking us or lying?"
Meanwhile, Bane is in the football stadium when he blows it. Guys. Seriously. WTF. You suck.
#93 on The Most Rewatchable Movies
Moments after a bloody bank heist, surfer messiah Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) discovers new bestie Johnny Utah is an undercover FBI AGENT, and Utah knows he knows. What does Johnny do next? Go into hiding? Witness protection? Hole up in the police station? Step in a time-traveling phone booth? Nah. He returns to his girlfriend’s apartment. Since Bodhi would never look there. By the by, in case you forgot, Johnny's gf is Bodhi's ex, so, like, come on, dude.
When J-Ute is inevitably kidnapped by Bodhi and his luxurious hair, it's kinda like, um, “duh.” And this is hardly Utah's first snafu. Remember when he assumed a group of Nazi surfers were the Dead Presidents bank robbers, even though the Nazis are a bunch of hapless fools, not a group of professional, well-organized criminals? And then an FBI raid on the Nazi's house screwed up a DEA investigation. Bro. Come. On.
Note: Agent Utah redeems himself at the film's end, by letting Bodhi ride one last great wave instead of arresting him for murdering Agent Pappas (Gary Busey). When Utah finally throws his badge down in the sand, all of us can breathe a sigh of relief.
#56 on The Greatest Movies for Guys
#7 on The Best Movies of 1991
#10 on The Best Buddy Cop Movies