Both the poster and the trailer for the crime drama Rampart, out today, loudly herald its LAPD antihero as “the most corrupt cop you’ve ever seen on screen.” The marketing gimmick is effective, just like the heavy metal guitars the trailer employs to make even taking a dip in the swimming pool seem thrillingly sinister. But the marketers could also use some perspective.
The corruptness of Hollywood’s most corrupt cops cannot be underestimated. Woody Harrelson’s Officer Dave Brown is indeed a pretty bad and deeply troubled dude. He’s racist, ill-tempered, and a womanizer. But his corruption is a case of mild dyspepsia compared to the rabid rampages that are S.O.P. for many other movie cops.
Hollywood likes its cops over the top. Several actors have given their most scenery-chewing performances as police officers (usually as members of the LAPD, the local force for most moviemakers, and a department familiar with real-life scandal itself). They plant evidence, take out other cops that get in the way, and shoot at dead gangsters because “their souls are still dancing.”
Here are 10 cops more corrupt than Harrelson’s Dave Brown, along with an internal affairs-style report on the estimable misdeeds of each. Eat your heart out, Officer Brown.