Okay, let’s start with the obligatory recap of the rules, shall we? The basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the before the year 2000. (Yes, this is a change from the original rules, which said the movie had to be from 1980 or before, but let’s be honest, at this point even 2000 is ancient history to a lot of the younger readers out there, so while I’m most likely still going to go for older movies whenever possible, since the real reason for this idea is to introduce my readers to movies they may not be familiar with, I think the rule change works.) Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.
So this week we get a gender-swapped version of the old trope of the police officer who sees something they shouldn’t involving their colleagues and then has to go on the run and find some way to bring the bad cops to justice. In the case of this week’s movie Black and Blue, it’s Naomie Harris who sees fellow cops murder someone (and since it’s 2019, the crime is caught on her body cam) and who has to somehow stay alive long enough to bring the crime to the attention of someone who will do something about it.
Yeah, like I said, we’ve seen this story plenty of times before, but that doesn’t mean this won’t be a good movie. Just because a story isn’t original doesn’t mean it can’t be told well. I just hope it has something to say beyond “it’s even harder for her because she’s an African-American woman.” I’m not saying that’s not true, but I’d just like to see the movie go a little deeper.
So what older movie do we pick for a double feature with Black and Blue? How about what is probably the ur- example of the genre, 1973’s Serpico. An obvious choice? Maybe, but only, I suspect for those of a certain age, and since part of the reason for this whole exercise is to introduce some of my younger readers to films they may not know, it seems like this is the perfect choice for today.
Serpico is based on the true story of Frank Serpico, a straight-shooting New York cop who quickly rises from patrolman to detective, but he soon discovers that beatings, bribes, and corruption are a way of life in the precinct and that he isn’t trusted by his fellow officers because he won’t participate in the wrongdoing. His partners even fo so far as to put him in deadly situations hoping that he will either change his mind and play ball or, just as well for them, be killed. When his superiors turn a blind eye to everything that is going on, Serpico finally decides he has no other choice but to go public with his allegations.
Directed by Sidney Lumet, Serpico stars Al Pacino who was fresh off The Godfather, and who delivers a relatively restrained performance here. (Well, restrained compared to his more recent work where he is AL F@#$ING PACINO BABY!!!) The two would team up again just a couple of years later for Dog Day Afternoon – another film from the era which, if you haven’t seen I highly recommend.
In the end, Serpico is, in many ways a portrait of another time, and it gives us a glimpse of a New York that really doesn’t exist anymore. But, at the same time, just as these “one good cop against the corrupt force” movies are still being (and probably forever will be) made, let’s be honest, corruption among those with power will never really be gone either.
Here’s your trailer: