I love crime dramas. Period. Especially if they explore the darkness and the more basal origins of man. Of course, it does not make for pleasant viewing and is a recipe for therapy (no need to get all judgemental about me), but intense stories such as these are intellectually stimulating. Hence, in my opinion, these should be consumed like black coffee – with good reason and at a very limited frequency.
Hollywood is abound with the morbid varieties of crime dramas. People say things have been notched up in the past few years, but I remember Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972) and it sends shivers down my spine even as I write. The only thing that keeps me from throwing up outright is the other side of the act of crime, the one that involves the chase and the final capture. These dramas are after all about the people and their minds, and while the unfathomable pit of the criminal thought-process is new territory, the workings of the mind of those in pursuit are more appealing, probably by virtue of their familiarity. Here I’m talking about the more tangible crime dramas and not something out of a Transporter or Fast and Furious franchise, which is easy comfort and where the shock-and-awe comes not from the psychology of the man but from his/her ability to defy all laws of physics. The more hard-hitting crime dramas are so because of not just the villain, but also the relatively good men. And good men often come in twos. A veteran and a rookie. A sociable easy-talker and a tacit cynic. An ethical one and a hustler. A builder and an unintentional demolisher. There are all kinds, and the relationship between the two as the case develops is more often than not, the only morsel of hope in the story.
The highest mention of such a cop duo should go to the Somerset-Mills pair of Se7en, played by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt respectively. They formed an epic veteran-rookie combination and despite the late-but-absolutely-crippling performance of Kevin Spacey, the gradual building of a caring relationship between the two cops was a much-needed soft touch. Their respective lives and Mill’s eager, mundane attitude added the requisite contrast to the starkness of the plot. (But then it’s a different thing, that this was one of those movies which was meant to employ the trap of happiness to twist the knife in the gut.) A slightly less shocking variant of Se7en was The Bone Collector, and the story was basically more about the psych of the suicidal Rhyme (Denzel Washington) and the sincere, sharp Donaghy (Angelina Jolie). The plot again bordered on the revolting (in terms of the crime, not the overall story, of course), but it was a pleasant break to see the two cops developing a bond based on trial by fire. While Detective Donaghy was no rookie, Detective Rhyme was a pillar of strength for her, and it felt good to see some humanity in that utter mess. Fortunately, the perpetrator of the crime had little screen time, and the movie ended like a fairy-tale (as much as possible, that is) and the two detectives are implied to have begun leading a reasonably content life.
Shifting to the more rock-n’-roll variety was the Bud-Exley power-pair of LA Confidential. Of course, they teamed up much later in the movie, but when they did, what a show it was! Now that is the kind of partnership I thoroughly enjoy. Exley (Guy Pearce) was a spectacled, by-the-book man, high on principles and a loner, while Bud (Russell Crowe) was the polar opposite, what with all his gruffness, and shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality. The only thing uniting them was their insistence on justice, and when the battles were won, the tacit respect for each other was eloquent in the lack of dialogues in the closing scenes of the movie. Along similar lines, though not in the lightness of the plot or at least the handling of it (God knows the story of LA Confidential was relevant enough), the unlikely duo of Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Salander (Rooney Mara) in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo bloomed in their mutual regard for each other. It was a most violent and disturbing movie, and I cannot fully say that the camaraderie of the pair of investigators did in any way thaw the chill of the plot. Nevertheless, it was a good, result-oriented partnership, which involved very little conversation – particularly at Slander’s end – and brought seconds of relief to the bleakness.
Besides cops-n’-robbers movies, I found a remarkable pair in Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) and Deck Shifflet (Danny DeVito) in the courtroom drama The Rainmaker. Based on a John Grisham novel, the story had the reasonably demure plotline and it was all about a pair of underdogs beating the odds. There was an odd sense of warmth in watching the two of them – both rookies in their own right – shuffling their feet and guessing their next step against a bunch of patronising lawyers in shiny suits and immaculate hair. I doubt if anything special grew between them even after the trial, besides a certain degree of reluctant liking.
Crime dramas are not necessarily good for the health. But sometimes, it takes the darkness to appreciate the light. While it is utterly inadvisable to seek such revelations in real life, a movie does its bit in squeezing the conception within a couple-odd hours. Mostly these movies have involved single, psychotic minds at work, and the unseen balance is restored only by way of the collaboration of a pair of different-thinking men and women, who end up developing an association which is both unshakeable and not completely understood. More than being inspirational to some degree, this is perhaps the glimmer of hope that drives a good crime drama.