Lets Go Be Bad Guys: Cops as Robbers
I love it when characters are forced to behave against type. A good guy playing at being the bad boy for good reasons? Yum with a huge side of me.
This particular ring around is top of mind given a recent episode of Strikeback. Continuing off the original UK show that featured Richard Armitage and Andrew Lincoln, Strikeback is about two special forces operatives, American Damian Scott (the spy) and Brit Michael Stonebridge (the soldier), who are the tip of the spear of a British military intelligence division called Section 20.
It’s essentially two hot, extremely alpha guys who, on a weekly basis, fight terrorism, save the world, have sex (Scott is an unrepentant man whore), pull off insane crazy tactical maneuvers, and regularly blow shit up. Over three seasons Scott and Stonebridge have built this great I’ve got your back, bro partnership which occasionally deepens to deliver great tough guy emo moments. And they’re such guys. In real life, I’d want to smack them upside the head on a regular basis but on the screen, their testosterone-heavy bullshit greatly entertains. Some of my favorite moments in the show are when Scott and Stonebridge take the piss out of each other. Male bonding. Bless.
In a recent episode, while on the trail of a terrorist money man in Columbia, Scott and Stonebridge learn the information they need is locked up in a bank’s safety deposit box. This particular bank is run by a notoriously brutal drug kingpin. Scott is positively gleeful at the prospect of robbing the bank while Stonebridge is, shall we say, less enthused and outright refuses to shoot at any legitimate cops who might responded to their heist.
Scott: “You didn’t play cops and robbers when you were a kid?”
Scott: “Then let me guess: you were always the cop, weren’t you, Michael? Well now you gotta play the robber, so you in or you out?”
Stonebridge: “If this is what it takes to keep from telling Locke [their boss] that we lost Kamali [bad guy of the moment] then I’m in.”
Scott: “Bingo! Right. We’re robbing a bank!”
And when discussing battling the private army that will arrive if the alarm gets trip:
Scott: “We won’t have to if it goes according to plan.”
Stonebridge: “’Cause it will all go according to plan. It’s a bank robbery. They never go wrong, do they?”
They rob the bank and just about everything does go wrong until the kingpin’s brother lies on the vault floor dying from a heart attack, Scott won’t give him mouth to mouth, Stonebridge can’t get the safety deposit box opened, and that private army is minutes away from killing them all. Stonebridge finally loses his shit at Scott. “F*cking never goes wrong, does it mate?! Robbing banks is f*cking great!”
Needless to say, they’re better off sticking to blowing shit up.
Banshee is a show that stands as counter to this point. It explores the exact opposite: what happens when a bad guy has to play at being good? A master thief completes his 15-year stretch in maximum security prison and immediately sets out to find the woman he loves for whom he went to jail in the first place…and the diamonds they stole together. He finds her married and living a whole new life in Banshee, PA, and violently opposed to hooking back up with her lover. Despite their bitter reunion, when the new sheriff of Banshee, who no one in town has yet met in person, is gunned down in a bar, the ex-con assumes the murdered Sheriff Lucas Hood’s identity so as to stay near his unwelcoming lover.
Unreformed and very much not rehabilitated, “Lucas Hood” continues his criminal activities. But he also has to uphold his own kind of law while wearing the badge in order to maintain his fake identity. He has a strong personal code, one for which he will kill and sacrifice, especially for those for whom he loves or feels responsible, but that code is limited and narrow and often very much free of morals. Raw from his incarceration and the things he did there to stay alive, Lucas applies an ex-con’s mentality to a lawman’s job, which often leads to unorthodox and violent ways of resolving conflicts, putting him in regular opposition to the more by-the-book, legal procedures and policies of the actual cops with whom he works.
Oh and every woman in town is smoking hot and wants to bang him too including his former lover, a drop-dead gorgeous Amish-bred young woman, and his stunning cop subordinate. It is on the Cinemax channel after all (as is Strikeback) where, as Justin Timberlake recently put it, “it’s all boobs and no b*sh.”
Both shows are fast-paced and well-structured with good scripts, hot moments, and high physical and emotional stakes. Whether cop or robber, Scott and Stonebridge go up against huge odds every week (though this season, the cost is beginning to wear). Lucas Hood is constantly scrambling to stay one step ahead of the people hunting him while always one breath away from being found out as a fraud and sent back to jail. Trouble is, more and more it looks like Lucas is a better cop than he ever was a thief.
What are some other cop/robber reversals you’ve seen or read?
Season three of Strikeback airs Friday nights on Cinemax. Season one of Banshee is now available on demand for subscribers and on DVD/BluRay. Season two debuts in Spring 2014.
All images courtesy of Google Images.