Formulaic in both their narrative and character development, buddy-cop films are unique in their ability to present differing, and often contradictory, ideas about masculinity without sacrificing the likeability or relatability of their male leads. The focus of this chapter is how these differing aspects of masculinity are depicted when there are two or more male protagonists in an action film. The examples I have selected for analysis include Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Lethal Weapon (1987), Tango & Cash (1989), and Bad Boys (1995). In the case of Beverly Hills Cop, the male dynamic is unique in that there are a trio of male leads (as opposed to the traditional duo), each of which depicts masculinity in different ways, and often resulting in the lead characters jostling for the role of the alpha-male. The enduring popularity of these films and, except for Tango & Cash, their subsequent sequels is indicative of the fact that while pop-cultural ideas around masculinity may be in a constant state of flux, elements of the stereotypical action hero remain prominent.
Discussions about the male action hero will be informed by Susan Jeffords Hard Bodies (1994), while concepts of toxic masculinity and stereotypical depictions of the black male have been influenced, in part, by the following academic works: Millennial Masculinity: Men in Contemporary American Cinema (Shary, 2012), We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity (Hooks, 2003), and Contemporary Masculinities in Fiction, Film and Television (Baker, 2015).