Mismatched buddy cops are a staple of action flicks, because “putting unstable people into high-pressure situations with guns and hoping things work out” always leads to comic mayhem. You know the trope — a beleaguered police chief assigns polar opposite detectives to a case that nobody wants to solve. They start out at each other’s throats before a begruding respect leads to geniune comraderie. (Nothing like blowing away some bad guys of vaguely European origin to stoke the fires of friendship.) In honor of IFC’s Lethal Weapon movie marathon, check out our tribute to the mismatched cop duos who play by their own rules and leave an epic body count in their wake.
7. Hammond and Cates, 48 Hrs.
Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte invented and mastered the art of buddy comedy, and they didn’t let little things like Eddie’s Reggie Hammond not being a cop stop them. The premise of “I’m borrowing this convicted thief from jail for a couple of days so he can be a peace officer” violates pretty much every law we know about. But the results (and Eddie’s Reggie) convincingly speak for themselves.
6. Lee and Carter, Rush Hour
Rush Hour‘s combination of Jackie Chan’s high-flying kicks with Chris Tucker’s motormouth means this movie never stops for a single second. Whether it’s action-packed set-pieces, turbocharged wise-cracking, or the wonderful novelty of clashing characters where neither is playing the straight man role, this duo is always going full tilt.
5. Raymond Tango and Gabriel Cash, Tango & Cash
Tango and Cash are forced together fairly quickly even by buddy cop movie standards thanks to falsified murder charges and a maximum security prison full of every perp they’ve ever put away. Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell bring high-tech attack vehicles and self-destruct sequences to the genre and the results, which are so not by the book they aren’t even fit for print, are all kinds of awesome.
4. Sykes and Sam Francisco, Alien Nation
Alien Nation took the mismatched partner genre to its ultimate conclusion by importing an alien “Newcomer” from an entirely different planet specifically to annoy James Caan’s grizzled cop. Oh, and also to fight an alien dealing “xeno-drugs” that make aliens immensely strong. Mandy Patinkin stars as the super-strong, ultra-helpful, and ridiculously named Sam Francisco.
3. Angel and Butterman, Hot Fuzz
Edgar Wright’s love-letter to buddy comedy moves London’s top cop Nick Angel (Simon Pegg) to the sleepy town of Sandford where PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) has nothing better to do than watch buddy cop movies and dream of action sequences. A hilariously self-aware parody of the genre pits both against a gloriously greasy Timothy Dalton.
2. Friday and Streebek, Dragnet
Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks is the kind of super-cinematic dream team that used to happen all the time in the buddy action comedy heyday of the ’80s. Aykroyd plays possibly the Akroyd-iest character of his career with Joe Friday, who has apparently replaced his soul with “the book” and doesn’t understand how silly he sounds when he reads from it. Hanks counters this with his streetwise Streebek, whose loose charm serves as Friday’s comedic foil. The classic mismatched pair join forces to fight P.A.G.A.N., the People Against Goodness And Normalcy, which should tell you whether you or not you want to watch this underrated ’80s comedy.
1. Riggs and Murtaugh, Lethal Weapon
Hammond and Cates were the original buddy cops, but Riggs and Murtaugh are the icons. In retrospect, pairing the almost-retired Murtaugh with suicidal loose cannon Riggs seems more like a scheme to avoid pension payouts than any way of fighting crime, but the results birthed an action comedy franchise that inspired more than a few imitators.