January 18, 2013 9:42 AM | By Norman Wilner
One Good Man vs. The System

Six movies that pit one good man against the whole damn dirty system

Broken City (© 20th Century Fox)
  • Broken City (© 20th Century Fox)
  • Absolute Power (1997) (© Warner Bros.)
  • L.A. Confidential (1997) (© Warner Bros.)
  • The Black Dahlia (2006) (© Universal Pictures)
  • The Departed (2006) (© Warner Bros.)
  • State of Play (2009) (© Universal Pictures)
  • Rampart (2011) (© Millennium Entertainment)
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We don’t really understand our institutions. Or rather, we don’t understand the need for them. Bureaucrats are regularly painted in the media as cynical suits who are in it for the cushy pension, while heroes who try to effect real change are rejected (or destroyed) by a system bent on self-perpetuation.

That’s not a real narrative. The idea that only a truly honest person can confront entrenched corruption is a dramatic myth that goes back to the days of Dickens, perfected by the pulp novelists of the 1920s and 1930s and refined into a bedrock of hard-boiled storytelling by Hollywood shortly thereafter.I

t’s still very much in use, as you can see in this week’s Broken City, which pits Good Cop Mark Wahlberg against Bad Mayor Russell Crowe, and last week’s Gangster Squad, which shifts the action of The Untouchables to post-war Los Angeles for a morally unclouded shoot-em-up. Here are a few other pictures that offered a similarly cynical look at modern power.

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