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  Cop, Le Policing Themselves
Year: 1984
Director: Claude Zidi
Stars: Philippe Noiret, Thierry Lhermitte, Régine, Grace de Capitani, Claude Brosset, Albert Simono, Julien Guiomar, Henri Attal, Abou Bakar, Pierre Baton, Bernard Bijaoui, Jean-Claude Bouillaud, Julien Bukowski, François Cadet, Jocelyn Canoen, Ticky Holgado
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: René Boirond (Philippe Noiret) is a cop who knows all the tricks criminals use to amass their ill-gotten gains - he knows them because he uses them himself. He lives very comfortably off the backs of the petty criminals he has under his spell, and up until recently he and his partner Pierrot (Pierre Frag) were successfully running various scams, but one night they bit off more than they could chew in pursuit of a lucrative deal and René was forced to arrest his friend lest they both be sent down, pretending to be shocked all the while. This means he needs a new partner, and gets fresh-faced, by the book François Lesbuche (Thierry Lhermitte)...

Of course he does, this is a cop buddy movie and said buddies must be mismatched or else the dynamic, some would say worn out clichés, would not be in operation. Back in 1984 perhaps this application of a comedy double act perennial (funnyman versus straightman) was a little fresher when in play with the police movie than it is today, and thus Le Cop, or to give it its French name Les Ripoux, basically translated as the corrupt policemen in Parisian slang, was a huge hit in its native country and made a pretty sizeable impression in foreign territories as well, seemingly because there is no nation where the idea of cops on the take does not travel well.

It helped that Noiret and Lhermitte took to their roles like ducks to water as if born to play this odd couple, especially the former, a past master at the reprobate slob he essayed here. At first François is incorruptible and shocked at the lengths René will go to to make his money on top of his wages, a mixture of fixed gambling, skimming profits off the top of street traders', eating for free in bars and restaurants in return for protection, and so on, all of which earns him the equivalent of the Chief's salary which François has been studying for. The scenes where René takes advantage of his new partner are played for laughs, but there's a deep cynicism about the way events unfold that isn't entirely amusing.

Maybe because director Claude Zidi, already a veteran of comedy movies, was observing that all those flicks featuring lawmen who bend the rules and at times are forced to break them to see their brand of justice done were actually depicting public servants as derelict in their duties as the one Noiret portrayed here. These were not so much heroes as liabilities: René makes no bones about only arresting as many criminals as he needs to take the quotient up to the correct level, letting everyone else go and seeing to it that anyone who wants him to behave more responsibly (i.e. François, at first) is so tied up in knots of his making that they haven't a hope of upsetting the dodgy status quo.

The structure of Le Cop was episodic, taking the form of various skits where the innocent is given the runaround by the wily copper he's supposed to be supporting, even to the extent of getting him a girlfriend who he is unaware is actually a prostitute arranged by René and his madam girlfriend, though there comes a point in the story where Zidi apparently thought, well, we've tortured poor old François enough, it's time to let him in on the joke. From that moment on he allows René to become his mentor, which not only means a wardrobe change from smart suit to leather jacket and cowboy boots, but essentially makes him his protégé as much as Pierrot was at the beginning. This does send whatever satirical intent at the cost of cop thriller conventions somewhat conventional in itself, as our two anti-heroes work out there's a chance to set them up for life with a really big scam, and the previously unlovely René becomes a more sympathetic personality now he has been outdone by the man he taught all he knew, leading to an unnecessarily sentimental close (until the two sequels). Music by Francis Lai.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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