Beyond the Long Arm of the Law

What is it about cops in action on screen that draws us into their pursuit of justice? Not the cool analysis of a detective mystery with the brain cells of Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. Nor the suave elegance of James Bond in an exotic locale with a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred. Neither superheroes nor wolf warriors fighting monstrous supervillains, human or otherwise. Instead, these are movies about basic policemen and the law in its everyday incarnations. Trying to resolve crimes, protect the innocent and mete out punishment. City cops in tough towns. Guys – and one tough woman – with badges and an alltoo- expendable partner. And the violence that haunts them.

Generally, these are movies about men with men – surrounded by colleagues, bureaucrats, politicians, gangsters, occasional bystanders. And Frances McDormand in the wry world of Fargo. Some of the men are the bad guys (even when there are women there are always bad guys) who engage cops in tortuous pursuits across – and even under – urban landscapes (and occasional towns in the American South and Midwest). Not supervillians. Just guys. Kinda like the cops. Only bad. Which the cops are not, mostly.

Yes, there are women. Even Fargo reminds us that most often the women turn into victims of either the murderer or the cop himself. Kidnapped. Murdered. Or girlfriends and wives, neglected and damaged by men whose way of life threatens any relationship.

Besides, there is always another guy on the horizon. Partner. Chief. Killer.

Above all, these films are vehicles for iconic stars and chiseled dialogue, exciting scenography and great music. Cool jazz. Exciting chases. Acrobatic gunfire in a church. Revelations. And Sidney Poitier. Steve McQueen. Clint Eastwood. Chow Yun-fat. Alain Delon. Kitano Takeshi. Frances McDormand. And even Catherine Deneuve.