In the new comedy “The Other Guys,” Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg play a couple of cops who are the laughing stock of their precinct. Ferrell’s Allen Gamble in particular is underappreciated by his hotshot colleagues, though his diligent paperwork is likely a great benefit to the force as a whole. I haven’t seen the movie yet (it opens this Friday), so I can’t say if Gamble and partner Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg) end up recognized as heroes or even respectable detectives. That is the expected outcome of buddy cop movies, though.
After the jump I take a look at five other very undervalued movie cops, most of whom prove themselves deserving of appreciation by their film’s conclusion. Can you think of any others that fit?
1. Martin Prendergast (Robert Duvall) in “Falling Down”
On his last day on the job, Prendergast is mocked by his fellow detectives, who give him a less-than-decorous sendoff. They make fun of him for being a desk jockey, the result of his mentally ill wife being too worried about him, fill his drawer with sand (possibly from a litter box) to prepare him for his retirement to Arizona and give him a going away cake that ridicules his long last name. Worst of all is his captain (Raymond J. Barry) who displays little familiarity with or care for Prendergast’s life and even makes a point to say he doesn’t like the sergeant because he doesn’t curse, which means he’s not a real man. He shows them all he’s a good cop in all senses by tracking and bringing down one last maniac (Michael Douglas).
2. Nick Angel (Simon Pegg) in “Hot Fuzz”
How is a cop underappreciated when he’s the best man on the force? When he’s so good that he makes the rest of the department look bad. As a result of this, superstar officer Angel is booted out of London, in the form of a promotion and reassignment to the sticks of England, where he’s really the best. Too good, really, until it turns out his new home can use some smart detective work. Meanwhile, his superiors back in the city start to realize just what they had when London’s crime rate goes up without Angel around. We could also count Angel’s new partner, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), who is viewed as a joke even for the already naive rural squad, because he’s merely the idiot son of the chief inspector. Alas, he does end up a hero by the end of Edgar Wright’s hilarious send up of buddy cop movies.
3. Dave Speed (Terence Hill) in “Super Fuzz” (aka “Poliziotto superpiù”)
In this guilty favorite for kids raised on early ’80s HBO, Speed is a rookie Miami cop who is already underappreciated when he one day gains super powers via an accident involving an experimental rocket. Yet even with his special abilities it’s hard for him to be accepted as a hero because the powers stop working at such inopportune moments (whenever he sees the color red). Even his partner (Ernest Borgnine) thinks he’s crazy. Still, he is “supah, supah!” and can catch bullets in his teeth, run really fast, fall from great heights without harm, blow enormous bubbles from a single piece of gum, breathe underwater and telekinetically dump robbers into grocery carts. As long as he’s not looking at the color red, Dave Speed is one “super snooper, a super-trooper,” as the Oceans’ theme music says.
4. Douglas Fackler (Bruce Mahler) in “Police Academy” (and parts 2, 3 and 6)
Fackler was originally the bespectacled nerd cadet, and he was responsible for a number of great slapstick moments in the first “Police Academy” movie due to his bumbling ways. But he was never one of the big guns — I’m surprised he even got to be on the poster for “Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment.” He wasn’t a giant, or a motormouth, or the charming lead. And by the third film, though there is the recall of his origins when his wife joins the academy, Fackler was pretty much supplanted by the redundant new nerd cadet, Sweetchuck (Tim Kazurinsky). I never saw “Police Academy 6: City Under Siege,” so I can’t say how well he was utilized in his return to the series in that final installment, but evidence of how he was pretty much replaced and ignored in the franchise can be seen in the animated spin-off, which features Sweetchuck rather than Fackler.
5. Bart (Cleavon Little) in “Blazing Saddles”
Saying that Bart was undervalued or underappreciated by his townsfolk is a huge understatement. Their racism made them downright despise their appointed sheriff, want him removed immediately, even want to kill him initially, and that was the very point of his assignment from Gov. LePetomane (Mel Brooks) and villainous Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman). That scene in which he first arrives in Rock Ridge and meets all the Johnsons is one of the most uncomfortably hilarious bits of cinema ever. Soon enough, though, he’s got a sidekick, the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder), and he’s defeated the dreaded Mongo (Alex Karras). Townspeople still judge him for his color but at least they bring him pie, as he realizes he’s “rapidly becoming a big underground success,” and he’s able to enlist their help in fighting Lamarr and thwarting his greedy scheme.