One Good Cop

One Good Cop is a 1991 American crime drama film written and directed by Heywood Gould and starring Michael Keaton, Rene Russo, Anthony LaPaglia and Benjamin Bratt. Keaton portrays New York City Police Department Detective Artie Lewis, who, with his wife Rita (Russo), adopts his late partner's (LaPaglia) children and loves them as their own. He also targets one of the criminals responsible for his partner's death. He initially seeks justice for his adoptive children, but ultimately chooses retaliation by robbing his quarry to support his new family, endangering them and his career.

One Good Cop
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHeywood Gould
Produced byLaurence Mark
Written byHeywood Gould
Music byDavid Foster
William Ross
CinematographyRalf D. Bode
Edited byRichard Marks
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • May 3, 1991 (1991-05-03)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$11 million


Artie Lewis (Keaton) is a New York City Police Department detective who believes in his work, loves his wife Rita (Russo), and is close to his partner of eight years, Stevie Diroma (LaPaglia), a widower with three young daughters. After a hard, violent encounter in a housing project while on duty, Artie and Stevie reassure each other that, although battered and bruised, they have survived.

Stevie is then killed in the line of duty by drug addict Mickey Garrett (David Barry Gray) during a hostage situation. Stevie's daughters Marian (Grace Johnston), Barbara (Rhea Silver-Smith), and Carol (Blair Swanson) are left orphaned with no relatives able to take them in. Artie is informed that Stevie, in his will, had named Artie the legal guardian of his children in the event of his death.

Artie and Rita take the children in and want to adopt them. (It is revealed the couple are unable to have children of their own). However, Child Welfare Services decides that their apartment is too small for three children, and Barbara is a diabetic who needs insulin shots.

To gain the welfare agency's approval, Artie feels he must buy a house. The one he has chosen requires a $25,000 down payment that he does not have. In desperation, he grabs his gun and a ski mask and robs drug kingpin Beniamino Rios (Tony Plana), whom he has investigated and knows is indirectly responsible for Stevie's death and orphaning the girls since Garret killed Stevie under the influence of Rios' drugs.

Artie uses $25,000 of the take for a down payment on the house. He gives the rest to Father Wills (Vondie Curtis-Hall), who runs a local makeshift shelter, and admits to Rita how he got the money for their house. Beniamino's girlfriend Grace De Feliz (Rachel Ticotin) is actually an undercover narcotics agent who suspects Artie, but his superior, Lieutenant Danny Quinn (Kevin Conway), defends Artie as one of his best officers and no action is taken against him.

One of Beniamino's customers, who gave Artie a tip as to the location where Beniamino kept his money, breaks down under his questioning and gives Artie to the drug lord. Beniamino kidnaps Artie and tortures him to find out what he did with the money. Knowing that Artie will not reveal the information, and is about to be killed, Grace blows her cover and saves him. Together they are forced to kill Beniamino and his colleagues.

Artie writes a confession to Lt. Quinn, preparing to turn himself in for his crime. However, Father Wills turns in most of the money Artie gave him; he used only $200 dollars of it to pay for a museum trip with the shelter's children, and all of Artie's co-workers make up the rest of the stolen money. Grace refuses to testify against him after learning that Artie's actions were not motivated by greed but as a father, so the federal government walks away from the case to avoid compromising its field agents. Quinn understands Artie's motives, is short-staffed for good detectives, and out of loyalty to Artie's slain partner, whose kids will be fatherless again if Artie goes to prison, tells Artie that no charges will be filed against him. Quinn tears up the confession letter and sends Artie home to be with his wife and adoptive children.

Relieved from the ordeal, Artie happily calls Rita to tell her that he is coming home early, and that their family is still together.



The movie received mixed reviews.[1][2][3]

In his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert wrote,

"One Good Cop" wanted to manipulate my emotions, and I was willing to let it try, but finally it was so shameless that I'd had enough. I always feel creepy anyway in movies where cute little children look at the camera with big brown eyes and beg for my sympathy. The movie is slick and clever, but it's immoral at its core, and the more you think about it, the more dishonest it seems.[4]

Ebert's main criticism of the film was towards its resolution, in which Michael Keaton's character does not lose his job or face criminal charges for his illegal actions:

... even if you grant that premise, the movie's last scene, which is supposed to be a happy ending, gets less and less happy the more you think about it, because it assumes the silence and acquiescence of the entire police department (the possibility of an Internal Affairs investigation isn't even contemplated).

This movie argues that the end justifies the means. It stacks the deck so shamelessly in favor of that assumption - especially with all those adorable little orphans - that I wanted to kick back. I wanted to say, look, there are a lot of police detectives, especially childless ones with wives who work, whose salaries don't force them to steal in order to move out of small apartments. And there are a lot of cops who wouldn't kick in a week's salary (as the cops in this movie do) to help out a colleague who broke the law.

No matter how sentimental and selfless the reasons behind it, a crime is a crime, and covering it up implicates everybody in the corruption. I don't know what the filmmakers thought, but I don't think "One Good Cop" has a happy ending.[5]

Box office

The movie in its first week debuted at No.2, making only $3.3 million.[6][7]


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