You may not find this fact in film-history books, but 1987 was a seminal year for the tarnished moral and ethical authority of the proverbial investigator and law enforcer (i.e., the loosely-allied private dick and big-city cop) in Hollywood films. For this was the year in which they both succumbed to the forces of darkness and crazy-hood.
It was 22 years ago when Shane Black‘s (and Richard Donner and Joel Silver‘s) Lethal Weapon introduced the then-radical idea of a cop who was screwier and possibly more dangerous than the criminals he was chasing. ’87 was also the year when Alan Parker‘s Angel Heart told the tale of a wise-guy shamus who turned out to be the very same grisly murderer he’d been looking to find all through the film.
Before these two movies cops and private eyes were thought to be more or less safe — corrupted and flawed to varying degrees (like Treat Williams‘ narcotics cop in Prince of the City) but still vaguely decent, semi-trustworthy, on “our side,” exuding a recognizable sense of morality. These two films changed all that.