The cops and robbers genre is perhaps one of the oldest in digital media.
The idea of daring thieves and the police who chase them goes back to classic literature, with Sherlock Holmes and Arsene Lupin. There’s often chivalry between the two, and in the case of the classic Robin Hood tales, the viewer or reader is encouraged to side with the daring thief. That’s often the case in digital media too.
The recent television series Money Heist, known as La Casa de Papel in Spain, is evidence of the genre going strong. Oddly, Republic World confirmed it was a flop in its home country and was only resurrected when Netflix bought it and beamed it to the US and UK. It is one of several heist shows that have gone down well when translated to another language; Lupin is another fine example.
The cops and robbers genre is also going strong within the video game sector. One only has to look at titles such as Payday 2 and Grand Theft Auto V to see how heists and those tasked with stopping them have become wildly popular. The concept is so well-known that some games don’t even need to put the player in a bank or police car; instead, they just use the imagery. That’s the case with Cops ‘n’ Robbers a Megaways game by Gala Casino. It’s a cartoonish slot game but draws heavily on police with truncheons and robbers with swag bags. Cops ‘n’ Robbers (Jail Break) has a similar title but is an iOS survival game rather than an online slot. It still leans heavily on the accepted themes such games are expected to have, with a good and bad guy.
That good and evil conflict and the ease with which directors can flip the roles make cops and robbers films very popular. Perhaps more so than games, films can often make the viewer choose the hero by painting both parties positively or negatively. Some of the best cops and robbers films of all time remain classics, in some instances many years after their release. Here are some of the best ever made, and if you’ve missed any, make sure you hunt them down in 2022.
What could possibly be better than an iconic cops and robbers film with grand heists, police with questionable morals and thieves with big hearts? Only one thing; pitting Al Pacino against Robert De Niro. This 1995 classic is nothing short of a masterpiece, with a great plot and a cast to die for. Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd, Jon Voight and Natalie Portman also star in a timeless masterpiece. De Niro and Pacino share very little on-screen time, but their scene in a diner is not to be missed. The ultimate game of cat and mouse ensues, and you’re never sure whether to root for the mouse or the cat.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
It seems improbable that 22 years have passed since Kevin Spacey first hobbled onto our screen as the odd one out in a line-up of the usual suspects. Sadly, both Spacey and director Bryan Singer have since been disgraced, but it shouldn’t take away the shine from the quality of this two-time Oscar winner. The focus here is on the robbers and a beleaguered Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) trying to figure out a crime with almost nothing to go on. It could have been a very different film: Yardbarker explains how Al Pacino nearly played Kujan but turned it down, having already been in Heat!
The Departed (2005)
It isn’t just the cast that makes the film, but when you’ve got a cop going undercover as a thief and a thief having trained for years as a cop, you have to get actors skilled in their profession to make it work. Enter Matt Damon and Leonardo Di Caprio, both unwaveringly superb throughout this two-and-a-half-hour epic that won no fewer than four Oscars. Jack Nicholson and Mark Whalberg add to the quality on display in the cast, whilst behind the camera, Martin Scorsese adds his directorial talent to a wonderful piece of cinema. The lines between good and bad are rarely in question for the viewer, but on screen is a different matter.
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