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Whack-a-mole

A movie guide to undercover cops
By PAUL BABIN  |  October 5, 2006

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"I'M A COP, YOU IDIOT!": Governor Schwarzenegger as Detective John Kimball
Movie: White Heat (1949) (directed by Raoul Walsh)
Undercover cop: Edmond O’Brien divides his time between Vic Pardo and Hank Fallon.
Undercover quarry: Mama’s boy Cody Jarrett.
Face Off: Cody discovers “the copper.”
Crime does/does not pay: Cody goes out with a bang, literally.
Words to live/die by: “Top of the World!”
Coroner’s Report: “If you think Mr. Cagney looked brutal when he punched Mae Clark in the face with a ripe grapefruit in Public Enemy, you should see the sweet and loving things he does to handsome Virginia Mayo, who plays his low-grade wife in this film.” -Bosley Crowther, New YorkTimes

Movie: Kindergarten Cop (1990) (directed by Ivan Reitman)
Undercover cop: Arnold will never make it as a guest on Sesame Street.
Undercover quarry: Who would dare mess with a drug dealer named “Cullen Crisp?”
Face Off: If you thought Crisp was tough, check out his mom!
Crime does/does not pay scene: Crisp’s final shootout with Arnold.
Words to live/die by: “We're going to play a wonderful game called..."Who is my daddy and what does he do?”
Coroner’s Report:Kindergarten Cop is made up out of parts that shouldn't fit, but somehow they do, making a slick entertainment out of the improbable, the impossible, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.” -Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Movie: Deep Cover (1992) (directed by Bill Duke)
Undercover cop: Laurence Fishburne split between Russell Stevens, Jr and John Hull.
Undercover quarry: Jeff Goldblum at his best as a crazy, but lovable drug dealer
Face Off: Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.
Crime does/does not pay scene: Verdict on new designer drug: “…it’s good!!!!”
Words to live/die by: “You know something? I don't think you could trust yourself.”
Coroner’s Report: “Director Bill Duke's portrait of a neurotically driven cop who goes undercover in Los Angeles to chase Colombian drug dealers is so riddled with cliches that even [Laurence] Fishburne can't rescue it.” -Richard Harrington, Washington Post

Movie: Reservoir Dogs (1992) (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
Undercover cop: Tim Roth bleeding as Mr. Orange.
Undercover quarry: The only thing scarier than a young Lawrence Tierney is an old one.
Face Off: Michael Madsen, a razor blade, a cop’s ear and “Stuck in the Middle with You.”
Crime does/does not pay scene: Mr. White’s grand exit.
Words to live/die by: “If you shoot this man, you die next. Repeat. If you shoot this man, you die next.”
Coroner’s Report: “Though small in physical scope, Reservoir Dogs is immensely complicated in its structure, which for the most part works with breathtaking effect.” -Vincent Canby, New YorkTimes

Movie: Face/Off (1997) (directed by John Woo)
Undercover cop: Sean Archer/Castor Troy. John Travolta and Nicolas Cage play one or the other.
Undercover Quarry: Castor Troy/Sean Archer.
Face Off: Depends on how you define it…
Crime does/does not pay scene: Castor’s harpoon through the chest. Or is it Sean?
Words to live/die by: “It’s like looking into a mirror, but not.”
Coroner’s Report: “In its best moments, Face/Off practically mainlines fury, leaving audiences no time to think or even breathe.” -Kenneth Turan, Los AngelesTimes

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