The 10 Best Cop vs. Criminal Battles in Film
5. Alonzo Harris vs. Jake Hoyt (Training Day)
Source: Warner Bros.
Training Day is a classic good cop/bad cop scenario, except that there's no role-playing involved; the bad cop is an actual bad cop, a criminal who uses his position as a senior police officer to his advantage, while the good cop is an LAPD officer seeking a promotion. It's the nobility of the idealist against the cynical egoism of the corrupt, and it's a pretty accurate representation of the two sides of the police.
Denzel Washington plays Alonzo Harris, a corrupt LAPD detective who takes fellow cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) under his wing for a day in order to teach him how to be a narcotics agent. By the movie's end, Harris has tricked Hoyt into taking a PCP-laced joint, involved him in multiple crimes, and tried to get him killed. So not a great internship then.
What's great about Training Day is the chance to see the cop vs. criminal battle take place between two cops. Despite sharing a profession, Alonzo and Hoyt are complete opposites of each other and while the corrupt detective is in complete control at the start of the movie, even pointing a gun at Hoyt's head at one point, by the end he's spiralling out of control, while the rookie's ideals keeps him grounded. So if you're reading this before you embark on a new career, remember to stay true to your ideals. Or, you know, sell out and make a crapton of money. Either way, make sure you don't smoke anything you didn't roll yourself.
4. The Jackal vs. Claude Lebel (The Day of the Jackal)
Source: Universal Pictures
Featuring a terrifyingly calm assassin, French terrorists and pan-European locations, The Day of the Jackal packs more brilliance into its 145 minutes than all this summer's blockbusters combined. Hell, even its name is incredible.
Edward Fox (because in a movie this great, even the actors have cool names) plays The Jackal, an English assassin hired to kill the President of France Charles de Gaulle. After getting wind of the plot, the French government put deputy police commissionaire Claude Lebel on the case.
The rest of the movie is split between The Jackal's steady step-by-step planning leading up to the assassination attempt, and Lebel's attempts to catch him before it's too late. Both men are calm, cool, competent pros, but on opposite sides of the field. They're like two quarterbacks, each taking turns to calmly work out a play while chaos and violence breaks out all around them. You can probably work out who wins in the end, but the pleasure in this movie comes not from the finale, but in watching two professionals match wits without ever meeting. Not until the end anyway.
3. Neil McCauley vs. Vincent Hannah (Heat)
Source: Warner Bros.
In 1995 Warner Bros. released Heat, a classic heist film built on a premise movie lovers had drooled over since the 1970s: Al Pacino and Robert De Niro together on one screen. It'd be Michael Corleone vs. Vito Corleone, Ricky Roma vs. Jake LaMotta and Tony Montana vs. Jimmy Conway. And if those scenarios give you anything less than a raging erection, then you my friend have a healthy sense of perspective that is not wanted here. Please leave.
Directed by Michael Mann, Heat is about a gang of bank robbers lead by Neil McCauley (De Niro) who decide to press ahead with a planned robbery despite knowing they are under surveillance. Pacino plays Vincent Hannah; a cop assigned the task of bringing the criminals to justice.
Heat's stand out action piece is a shoot-out after the bank robbery and the film climaxes with Pacino pursuing De Niro across an airfield, but it is a scene midway through that is the real pay-off, as the two sides of the law sit down over a coffee and cautiously talk about each other's professions, the upcoming heist, and the likelihood of one killing the other.
2. John McClane vs. Hans Gruber & Co. (Die Hard)
Source: 20th Century Fox
Probably the greatest cop in the history of movies, right? And Alan Rickman, who plays Hans Gruber, is pretty much the best in the business at portraying villains. If this was a list of the greatest cops, and a separate list of the greatest villains, they'd be strong contenders for respective number ones. As it stands, they fall one short, though that that doesn't mean Die Hard isn't incredible, and that you won't immediately make plans to re-watch it after reading this.
Bruce Willis plays John McClane, a New York cop who – you know what? I'm not doing this. If you're reading Spike.com, you've seen Die Hard at least eight times. And if you're that desperate for a plot recap, watch this.
While most of Die Hard consists of McClane taking on an assortment of German thieves, it's basically a battle between him and the gang's mastermind, and all-round criminal genius, Hans Gruber. Throughout, Gruber shows a clinical intelligence and ability to adapt to the changing circumstances. McClane has the same abilities however, and ultimately Gruber is no match for the cop. He ends the movie being shot through the window of a skyscraper, illustrating that crime never pays, and the importance of staying clear of recently cracked windows.
1. Colin Sullivan vs. Billy Costigan (The Departed)
Source: Warner Bros.
Adapted from the equally excellent Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs, The Departed follows a Boston gang and the city's police as they go toe to toe, round for round, tortured accent for tortured accent.
Billy Costigan is a police officer undercover with the gang, secretly feeding information back to the police, while Colin Sullivan is a criminal working for the police and secretly feeding information back to the gang.
The two characters spend the first two thirds of the movie dancing around each other like featherweight boxers, each trying to find out the identity of the other while concealing their own covert role. And when the movie reaches its climax, things kick off in a violent – and excellent – culmination of betrayal and confused identity, with a showdown on a rooftop involving a criminal who everyone thinks is a cop and a cop who everyone thinks is a criminal. And that, incidentally, is how every movie should end.