7 Great Law Enforcers Who Went Undercover

By Mack Rawden 2012-03-09 21:55:09discussion comments
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Iím not a police officer. I didnít grow up hoping to wear the blue uniform, and quite frankly, thereís about a thousand jobs Iíd choose before it. It takes balls, relentless aggression and that weird cop personality quirk to serve and protect successfully. So, for the safety and well-being of not only myself but every other American citizen, I elected to write stories like this instead, but just because Iím absent the skills to effectively enforce codes of conduct doesnít mean I donít understand why someone else would attend the academy. Iím sure thereís a whole lot of fulfillment to be found in locking criminals away and patrolling the streets. Working undercover however is a special kind of crazy that I canít even comprehend.

It takes a borderline sociopath to pretend to be an entirely different person day-after-day. The ruse would drive most people to madness or at least convince them to act foolishly. Donít take my word for it though, ask movies. Hollywood has been depicting these subterfuges for decades, and nearly every one of these poor characters has had a mental breakdown, downward spiral or intense, what-the-fuck-am-I-doing monologue. As I said before, I donít know what the hell theyíre doing either, but Iíll gladly keep watching their stories on screen.

A week from now on March 16th, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are poised to take 21 Jump Street wide. The early buzz has been very good; so, in honor of their future exploits, here are seven of Cinema Blendís favorite law enforcement characters who went undercoverÖ


Mr. Orange In Reservoir Dogs
It took time for Freddy Newandyke to learn the lingo, time to perfect his story and time to get close to mastermind Joe Cabot. He strenuously worked to get himself to laugh at the right jokes and speak with the right inflection in his voice, but all of that training must have felt useless as he slowly bled to death in the warehouse following the botched robbery. I love his impassioned pleas to Nice Guy Eddie, hopelessly trying to convince him Mr. Blonde was planning to steal the diamonds, but even more, I love his final confession to Mr. White. He knows itíll earn him a bullet, but somehow, thatís okay.


John Kimble In Kindergarten Cop
An ability to blend in is typically the most important quality in selecting an undercover officer for a particular job. Thatís why OíHara was originally supposed to be the teacher in Kindergarten Cop, but when circumstances impaired her ability, good Ďol Arnie came in to achieve absurd, yet solid results. Kindergarten Cop might not be the greatest movie ever, but itís sure as hell memorable. ďItís not a tumor!Ē remains a great quote, and Iíll admit I still get satisfaction out of seeing Kimbleís classroom management techniques. All in all, Iím glad this character exists, and Iíll watch Kindergarten Cop three or four more times before I die.


Johnny Utah In Point Break
This movie never would have worked without Keanu Reeves. Iím not sure thereís another actor in the world that could so believably be sucked into a world populated by bankrobbing, philosophizing surfers. If John Kimble was the worst possible pick to play a Kindergarten teacher, Utahís assignment here is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Itís right in his wheelhouse, and I still love watching every over-the-top, kind of buffoonish minute. Itís like all the directorís suggestions were ďgo a little harder on this takeĒ. Everyone did, Keanu Reeves included, and the result is a masterpiece of fun excess that will probably be played on television periodically until weíre all dead. Vaya con Dios.


Billy Costigan in The Departed
The Departed features numerous characters pretending to be things theyíre not. Were this a list of FBI informants, rogue officers or morally complicated badasses, numerous personalities found here could readily apply, but as undercover cops go, Billy Costigan is one of the greats. Throughout The Departed, heís an absolute mess. The depravity of both the police force and the South Boston mob alter his own moral code, but somehow, he still remains brilliant at his job. When it all goes to hell in the filmís final act, his success only becomes that much more clear. I donít envy the emotional toll it took on him, but I sure as hell envy his competence.


Gracie Hart In Miss Congeniality
It might be more dangerous to blend in with ruthless drug dealers and vindictive mobsters, but I canít imagine itís any more difficult than passing yourself off as a beauty queen. FBI Agent Gracie Hart might not have all the mannerisms down, but by the end, sheís learned enough to not make a scene when Miss Rhode Island describes her perfect date as April 25th. Like Cady Heron found out in Mean Girls, Gracie Lou Freebush grows to both despise and love the beautiful women sheís surrounded with, and while Iím not sure thereís an enlightening moral lesson in that, thereís certainly a watchable movie.


Joseph D Pistone In Donnie Brasco
There are consequences for ratting on your friends, consequences for both you and the people that trusted you. Made men and associates have lived and died by that code for centuries. You would think law enforcement agents would be immune from feeling the sting of breaking omerta, but when Joe Pistone goes undercover in the Bonanno Family as jewel thief Donnie Brasco, he sure as hell quivers at the thought of flipping on his new associates. His buddy Lefty Ruggiero might have killed a shitload of people, but heís also a good dude thatís in some ways better and more honest than his new friend thatís slowly walking him toward disaster.


Sean Archer In Face/Off
Letís just admit it right now. Face/Off is ludicrous. In a long career that includes wild shit like Con Air and Drive Angry, itís probably the craziest Nicholas Cage has ever gone. Given that the whole concept of going undercover is at least a bit odd however, thereís no way I could possibly leave Travoltaís Archer off. The reckless abandon he shows in grafting someone elseís face onto his own is a borderline death wish, a testament to how much he hates bombs, a giant fuck you to his mortal enemy Capser Troy or some combination of all three. Regardless, itís bizarrely good police work and utterly fascinating to watch. Iím not sure Iíd invite Archer to dinner, but I would pay him to spy on my foes.

Honorable Mentions
Pep Streebek in Dragnet, Frank Drebin in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, Malcolm Turner in Big Mommaís House, Brian OíConner in Fast And The Furious.

Which undercover lawman is your favorite?

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