After the L.A. Riots: The LAPD in Film
April 29 is the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots. For a year, the nation had focused on a videotape recording of black motorist Rodney King being harshly beaten by white LAPD officers. Even to law & order supporters, the videotape was difficult to dismiss. When the police officers involved were acquitted of all charges, crowds spontaneously gathered in L.A.’s African American neighborhoods on April 29, 1992. Violence erupted when a white truck driver, Reginald Denny, unknowingly drove directly into the turmoil. Live helicopters' news images of Denny being beaten galvanized good Samaritans who rushed out to help him. Violence, fires and looting raged across L.A. for six days.
Roughly coinciding with this anniversary, the recent film RAMPART is being released for home viewing. Pictured above, Woody Harrelson stars as Dave Brown, an LAPD officer in the famously corrupt Rampart division. Brown is a bad cop with a good heart, a heavy drinker who lives with his two ex-wives (who are sisters) and his kids. As viewers will discover, RAMPART aggressively rekindles the wounds of twenty years ago even though it is set today. Harrelson’s performance is excellent, and we're pleased to make the film available on May 1 to our customers two weeks before its general public release.
Throughout film history, the LAPD has provided a context for dozens of policiers, with its members typically portrayed as macho and corrupt -- even murderous. We went through our library to pick out a few of these films -- the ones we definitely recommend (although it was hard to narrow them all down to just five). Let us know what are your favorite LAPD films!
BLUE THUNDER (1983) – Once upon a time, a long time ago, the LAPD began using aerial surveillance with the latest military technology to control the urban metropolis. This thriller starring Roy Scheider won the Oscar for editing.
HEAT (1995) – A fantastic cast plus knife-edge direction by Michael Mann make this one of our favorite films. Al Pacino is the good cop, obsessed with catching Robert De Niro, the leader of an unbeatable group of thieves.
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997) – This stylized neo-noir has as much to say about Hollywood and prostitution as it does about police violence. Based on James Ellroy’s novel, the film deserved the two Oscars it received, one to Kim Basinger. Also starring Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, and Danny DeVito.
TRAINING DAY (2001) – This is one of the first thrillers in the LAPD genre dealing directly with race. Denzel Washington is a bad cop, in a role that won him an Oscar. The film gave a career boost to Ethan Hawke as well.
And note: none of these films are available for instant streaming on Netflix!
(If you prefer to a comic look at the LAPD, we’ve got BLUE STREAK with Martin Lawrence, SHOWTIME with Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro, and RUSH HOUR with Jackie Chan. And none of these are on Netflix’s instant play, either.)