Scripting Cop Movie II
Imagine one of those Hollywood Police films, the ones starring Bruce
Willis or Steven Seagal or Danny Glover as the loose cannon maverick cop
with a heart of gold.
The prototype of this type of motion picture was, of course the film
starring Al Pacino, based on the true story of the honest New York
Police officer Frank Serpico, but Hollywood changed the blueprint
somewhat. The formula goes something like this:
The local gangster is terrorising the mean streets of New York (or
Los Angeles or Philadelphia) and pushing drugs to the neighbourhood
youth to finance his extravagant lifestyle. Our hero, the lowly cop with
a small gun but a big heart, goes against the orders of his superiors
and takes on the hooligan. Our hero does not get much support from the
Police Commissioner, but perseveres. He tries to be reasonable, but then
the scoundrel’s heavies start threatening his family, so he realises he
must fight him.
After much carnage and many fire-fights our hero, armed only with his
Smith & Wesson 38, corners the automatic-rifle-toting gangster in a
Finally, our protagonist emerges from the building into the light of
day wounded, but having killed the villain and saved the neighbourhood.
At this point the film fades into the end titles.Generally, we are
not told what happens afterwards, but we assume that the policeman goes
back to what he was doing before.
Sometimes, if the film has been a commercial success, there is a
sequel, and at its very beginning we find that our assumption has been
correct. The sequel is usually a repeat of the formula of the original,
with different villains and a slightly different plot twist.
But what if the sequel was to be based on what really does go on in
the real world? The script of our imaginary but more realistic sequel
would probably go something like this:
At the beginning, we find that our hero is trying to pull his
neighbourhood together after the trauma it has been through. He is being
the good community policeman, helping people reconstruct their lives,
sawing wood for the new neighbourhood centre and so on. So far, so good.
However, Police Commissioner Banks is not happy with our hero. He gets
Internal Affairs to investigate him, and he is a little put out, to say
Our hero points out to Banks that he has cleared up the mess and is
helping people rebuild their lives, and that he is helping the former
junkies to rehabilitate themselves.
He also points out that, on the other hand, Captain Gus and
Lieutenant Luigi, two other senior cops, are tearing down the
neighbourhoods in their precinct and that the collateral damage is quite
Gus and Luigi keep messing up, riling the populace, bringing in SWAT
teams, deploying disproportionate firepower and generally making things
worse. The neighbourhoods in their precinct are in far worse condition
than before they started trying to clear up.
Our hero suggests that Banks is being unfair by investigating him but
not Gus and Luigi. Undeterred, Banks persists in sending in the sleuths
of Internal Affairs. The gung-ho detectives begin their inquiry by
getting testimony from the gangster’s associates who - understandably -
don’t have much good to say for our hero. It looks like they might
recommend that our hero’s badge and gun be taken away from him.
The people in our hero’s neighbourhood are all upset. They feel that
the Internal Affairs people might be getting the wrong end of the stick.
They crowd into Banks’ office to protest, but he ignores them. In the
meantime, Luigi manages to kill the children of another hoodlum while
Gus shoots dead an unarmed gang godfather, who then (in the terminology
of Hollywood mobsters) ‘sleeps with the fishes’. Nevertheless, not even
at this point does Banks take action against them.
Finally, the Internal Affairs detectives recommend that proceedings
be started against our hero and that his gun and badge be taken away.
Needless to say, were this to happen there would be no doubt that our
hero would be gunned down and that the neighbourhood would once more
become the happy hunting ground of narcotic-pushing criminals.
So how should our movie script end?
Do we have Police Commissioner Banks bowing to the wishes of the
neighbourhood’s inhabitants’? Do we have other cops putting pressure on
him to let up on our hero? I really don’t know.
Perhaps we should ask Ban ki-Moon. He might have an opinion.