Top Ten Tuesday
First let me clarify. I don't mean the kind of rifle that you shoot, but rather the verb, to rifle through things looking for something.
I used to know someone who was an undercover narcotics officer (in Houston, I think), and he told this story from back in his undercover days, when he was known as Mouse. A reliable source told Mouse about some rich guy who kept his drugs hidden behind a specific brick in a brick wall of his mansion. Because the snitch was reliable, and had lead to busts in the past, this was enough for a judge to grant Mouse's team a search warrant, despite the suspect's prominence in the community. So, Mouse's team shows up, and the rich guy is none too happy, shouting things like, "Do you know who I am? How dare you? When my lawyers get through with you you won't know which hole to crap out of!" and other not-nice things like that. While the officer in charge waits with the rich man in the room with the brick wall, and while Mouse waits patiently outside in a van, his team tears through the man's house, looking for the drugs. They pull pictures off the walls, dump out drawers, rip up the pillows and couches, wrench open the plumbing, and look anywhere else (except the brick wall) privileged by their warrant. But, of course, they don't find the drugs. During all of this, the rich man becomes more and more hostile as he sees his house torn to pieces, shouting, "you muthereffer this" and "you muthereffer that". Finally, one of the officers says to his boss as he pretends to scratch his head, "Nothing. We can't find anything." "You're damn right you can't find anything you stupid piece of police garbage I'll eat you for breakfast for this you'll never work another day in your miserable life!" says the rich man, feeling more confident than ever. The officer in charge feigns being perplexed for a moment, then says, "Well, I guess we'll have to bring in the Mouse." The rich man freezes. "What's the mouse?" In walks Mouse, carrying a Y-shaped stick, like a witching rod. The rich man says, "What's that? What's that he's got?" Mouse sort of closes his eyes and lets the stick start to guide him through the house. The stick pulls him up and down the halls, up the stairs, through the bedrooms, down the stairs, through the kitchen. As Mouse's search continues, the rich man grows more confident again. "You're not gonna find anything you little piece of mouse turd my lawyers'll shove that stick so far up your ass you'll think you were born with a forked tongue you piece of garbage!" But then Mouse slowly wanders into the same room as the rich man, drifts left, drifts right, turns toward the brick wall, and pokes his stick directly on the loose brick. And sure enough, there were drugs behind it.
The rich man's defense attorney later tried to dismiss the case, arguing that the police had employed an illegal searching device. The judge looked over at Mouse and said, "Did you use that old witching rod trick again?" Mouse just gave him a grin. The judge turned back to the defense attorney and said, "Motion to dismiss denied."
10. Enemy of the State (1998)
In a tense moment on a rooftop, when Will Smith has coaxed Gene Hackman out of hiding for a meeting, Hackman demands that Smith take off his clothes. Smith reluctantly complies. Hackman, growing more anxious by the second, yells at Smith to take off his shoes, to take off his watch, to dump his cell phone. Smith thinks Hackman is crazy, but he finally agrees, and is soon standing in his underwear and socks. Once they retreat away from Smith's effects, Hackman explains that everything Smith was wearing was bugged.
9. Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
How do you find an invisible man? For starters you burst into his apartment with infrared goggles and cans of spray paint, and you let loose with the spray paint. Invisible man Chevy Chases watches in disgust as the goons cover his furniture and curtains in paint, hoping to tag him and make him visible.
8. Zero Effect (1998)
A good rifling can occur entirely within a person's mind. Bill Pullman comes from the tradition of detectives who solve cases by shear observation. When he is charged with finding a man's missing keys, Pullman stands in the man's office, and just looks around. Pretending to be the man with the missing keys, Pullman emulates a few motions he thinks the man might have done. Finally, Pullman sits on the couch, reaches into the cushions, and pulls out the keys, all without having disturbed anything else in the room.
7. The Last Castle (2001)
In a military prison, Robert Redford has arranged for an American flag to be stolen from warden James Gandolfini's office. Gandolfini, enraged, orders his men to conduct a full search of all prison cells. In a wonderful shot that looks like the middle of a tornado, we watch from the middle of the room as guards claw through every prison cell, dumping out over the railing every non-standard item they find. Radios, knives, magazines, books, and cigarettes come raining down from above into a heap of illicit rubbish in the center of the room. But Gandolfini's men don't find the flag.
6. Inside Man (2006)
Following the peaceful resolution of a bank robbery, detective Denzel Washington and squads of police officers descend on the bank looking for the bank robbers. But they can't find any. They look for evidence of missing cash, but everything is accounted for. They search the building up and down, but all they find is evidence that a robbery never actually took place.
5. Flightplan (2005)
While Jodie Foster is asleep on a plane, her daughter goes missing from the seat next to her. The plane is in flight, so we're presented with a locked-room mystery of where the daughter might be. More than half the movie involves Foster's desperate attempts to find her daughter, at first with the help of the crew, but then, in a Kafkaesque twist, the crew begins to doubt that Foster even has a daughter.
4. Sneakers (1992)
Robert Redford makes it on this list twice. He breaks into a mathematician's office looking for an encryption device. Unfortunately, he has no idea what it looks like. So, rather than physically rifling through everything, he describes what he sees to David Strathairn, his blind cohort who's across the street. Strathairn listens to Redford's description, considering everything in the office, and then tells Redford exactly where the device is.
3. Gattaca (1997)
There's been a security breach at a high clearance facility, and when that facility goes into lock down, they mean business. A goon squad enters the building to gather evidence, right down to vacuuming up every stray particle from every tiny ledge. They sift through each minute bit of matter looking for anything out of place, and they finally find it when they sequence an eyelash that belongs to non-employee Ethan Hawke.
2. The French Connection (1971)
Gene Hackman makes it on the list twice as well. He's a narcotics cop trying to pin possession on the baddies. He suspects that the drugs are hidden somewhere in a certain car, but they don't want to break surveillance for an arrest unless they're sure. So, while the baddies are away, Hackman obtains the car and his team rips it apart in search of the drugs. I mean, I have never seen a car so torn to pieces in my life. Hackman's team takes out every screw, tears up the carpet, dismantles the engine, and deflates the tires. Then, when they finally find the drugs, they leave the drugs in place, and put the car back together again (it's a miracle they could) so they can later make the bust. Awesome.
1. The Man with One Red Shoe (1985)
Tom Hanks is suspected of being a spy, so C.I.A. bigwig Dabney Coleman orders a complete search of Hanks's house. When Hanks goes to the dentist, a sight-seeing bus pulls in front of his house, and out pile a crack team of spooks, all dressed like tourists. They fan out in Hanks's house and get to work. Lori Singer is head of the search team. She goes through Hanks's wardrobe with impressive efficiency, swiping her hand down the front of shirts and jackets, and knowing immediately if there is anything concealed in them. As she checks in on the rest of her team we see that they are drilling into the walls, twisting apart the plumbing, sawing off chair legs, tearing sleeves off shirts, and even squeezing out the toothpaste. When Hanks returns from the dentist early, the team rushes to reconstruct his home, with hilarious consequences that manifest throughout the rest of the film.