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Good cops, badder cops 

This week we profile two forgotten films that both depict corruption within American law enforcement. The rogue cops, in this case, are actually the ones trying to fight the corruption.

Border Cop (1979) is an unusual movie. It stars Telly Savalas (aka "Kojak") as a hard-assed but kind-hearted border cop who is disillusioned with the raw deal illegal immigrants face at the hands of the coyotes and the sweat shops that exploit them. Despite his serious intentions, he spends all his scenes with his shirt almost completely unbuttoned like he's still a sex symbol. Maybe he still was at the time. The opening sequence is probably the best part of the film — a sadistic surfer who doubles as a human trafficker tries to sneak past the border cops with a couple of Mexicans hidden underneath his souped-up El Camino. A hilarious T.J. Hooker-esque chase scene follows, with Savalas' partner holding onto the hood of the car as they race down the highway. Unintentional comedy notwithstanding, Border Cop offers a melodramatic and rare humanistic viewpoint, wholly on the side of the Mexican immigrants. We follow a mexicano as he ends up toiling in a California slaughterhouse. Graphic animal deconstruction works to symbolize the fate of the immigrants (PETA would probably vomit in their collective mouth, but it's shocking in a way they should approve of). The young immigrant returns to Mexico for revenge against the coyote. Rather than revel in the pulp possibilities, the film maintains its earnest intentions, which is what makes it unique.

Busting (1974) stars Elliott Gould and Robert Blake as embittered buddy cops in the L.A. vice squad. The film starts with a cynical viewpoint towards justice before slowly moving towards an even more nihilistic attitude by the end (with the Watergate scandal in the air, 1974 seems to be a high/low point for American cynicism). For a plot, our two vice cops spend scene after scene spitting in the wind as they try to do their jobs and bust the "bad guys." They soon realize LAPD is just as much a part of the problem as the crime syndicate. The grimy but beautiful cinematography is a highlight, as is the odd pairing of Gould and Blake. Busting wants to be a French Connection in L.A. but comes across more as two white dudes passing through a blaxploitation film. There are worse things.

Cine File is a random reference guide to help explore the vast catalog of films available on Netflix instant viewing, with special emphasis on the interesting, the unusual, and the ones that got left behind.

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September 9, 2020

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