30. Sister Act
Out of all the titles on this list, Sister Act has the best selection of songs. Here, the incredible Whoopi Goldberg plays a lounge singer who gets sent to a convent for her own protection. Life is uneventful among the nuns at first, but when Whoopi brings some music to their lives, things perk up and she receives widespread attention. Of course, that’s not ideal when gangsters want to make you sleep with the fishes. This inability to lay low, while fun, is what makes Whoopi’s character one of the worst nuns in cinema history.
29. 21 Jump Street/22 Jump Street
Technically this is two films, but if there’s one thing undercover movies have taught us it’s that sometimes breaking the rules is warranted. Therefore, if any list is allowed to break the rules, it’s this one. Besides, 21 Jump Street and its sequel are best viewed as a double bill anyway. They’re basically the same movie and this is acknowledged in numero deux. In both movies, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play cops who go undercover as fake students in the education system. As far as mainstream dumb-out comedies go, these movies get the job done.
28. Undercover Brother
Black Dynamite might be regarded as the ultimate comedic homage to Blaxploitation films, but Undercover Brother deserves some love as well. Can you dig it? In true genre spirit, we see a black undercover cop go up against a villain known as The Man, who’s real bad news. You see, this villainous cracker is trying to derail a black presidential campaign. Naturally, our titular detective isn’t about to let that happen, but white women getting in the way causes some distraction. Those damn White She Devils…
A common trope in these movies is protagonists who are seduced by the life of crime. Why stick to making a lousy cop salary when you could make more money and have more fun breaking the law? If you have access to the dope, why not go wild? In this regard, Rush doesn’t rewrite the rules or try to rejuvenate the genre by any means, though the film does an excellent job of exploring the descent into darkness. But it’s one of the more gripping efforts, and one which caused controversy upon release due to its portrayal of cops. There’s a gritty sense of realism here which adds to the film’s power. Meanwhile, the commentary pertaining to the drug war provides enough food for thought to elevate proceedings above standard crime-drama fare.
26. Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man
On top of boasting one of the most memorable and badass titles in the history of cinema, this poliziotteschi thriller from Italian exploitation maestro Ruggero Deodato is mean-spirited fun of the highest order. Italian crime films of the 70’s are renowned for being excessively violent and unrestrained. Even though they were inspired by Dirty Harry, they set out to show that American crime movies were for pansies. The justice delivered here is so casually violent and insidiously right-wing that the film’s detectives would feel right at home in the imaginations of NRA members. But you have to admire Deodato’s unapologetic approach to his craft.
25. Hard Boiled
Undercover police work isn’t central to the plot of John Woo’s bullet ballet, but it plays a small part. And I am never one to turn down an opportunity to reappraise one of the finest action movies to ever grace our lives. The story follows a jaded cop who teams up with an undercover agent to take down the baddies, but that’s not important. This movie is all about thrills. The action is spectacular, culminating in a 30-minute shoot-out in a hospital that unleashes some of the finest gun-fu ever captured on film.
24. Big Momma’s House
Our next cross-dressing comedy sees Martin Lawrence play a federal agent and master of disguise. In order to protect a woman and her son from a dangerous crook, he pretends to be her southern church-going granny. At the same time, he falls in love with the woman he’s supposed to protect. However, as we all know, dating is difficult when you’re pretending to be someone’s same-sex elderly relative.
23. Donnie Brasco
Based on the true story of real-life FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone, Donnie Brasco stars Johnny Depp as an agent who infiltrates the mob. But when he gets close to a hitman (played by Al Pacino), their burgeoning friendship risks jeopardizing people’s lives. As the case progresses, it begins to take its toll on our protagonist’s personal life. But if he walks away, his new buddy faces certain death. This is top-notch stuff and the performances across the board are spectacular. I miss these versions of Pacino and Depp.
22. New World
This gripping drama from South Korea is yet another story of duel roles and torn loyalties. Events revolve around a cop who’s struggling to choose between his job as a lawman and his ties to the crime syndicate he’s a part of. His own chief wants him to rise to power within the syndicate so they can control the organization from within. But this involves getting his hands dirty if he wants to eliminate his rivals who also have their eyes on the throne. Now do you understand why he’s conflicted? New World was written and directed by Park Hoon-jung, who also penned I Saw the Devil — another masterpiece.
21. The Raid 2
In the first installment of this Indonesian action series, we witnessed a one-man army (played by Iko Uwais) lay the smackdown to a bunch of gangsters in an apartment block. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of his nightmare. In the sequel, he goes undercover and fights his way through the criminal underworld with the aim of bringing down the big dogs that want him dead. Here, writer-director Gareth Evans expanded the scope of his criminal universe while retaining all the stylish and bloody action that made us fall in love with it in the first place. Now please the hurry the hell up and make the third movie, Gareth.
Related Topics: Drama