1) Shifty (2008)
Made for just £100,000, writer-director Eran Creevy's feature debut is a stylish and affecting look at male friendship and untapped potential. Riz Ahmed plays the dealer of the title and Daniel Mays is his now-law-abiding pal who makes a trip back to their old stomping ground. But for what? Taking place over a 24-hour period, Shifty fuses the day-in-the-life and race-against-time storylines to great effect. It's funny, poignant and tense and fans of The Wire will find the lives of those onscreen in these suburbs just as compelling as the ones on the corner.
2) Narc (2002)
If you loved Ray Liotta in Copland or Jason Patric in Rush then wait until you see them as reluctant partners in the Detroit Police Department. From its harrowing opening right through to the shocking finale, Narc is bleak and relentless, with writer-director Joe Carnahan finding the right mix of procedure and predicament as his compromised duo scour the streets, while you're left wondering if either of them could do the right thing. You'll think you've spotted the ending from a long way off - guess again.
3) Destroyer (2018)
It really would be a crime if this was Nicole Kidman's only collaboration with Girlfight director Karyn Kusama. Looking and moving like the living dead, Kidman transforms here into one of the great female anti-heroes as Erin Bell, a Los Angeles homicide detective at the bottom of the bottle. Feeling like a whole season of True Detective packed into two hours, Destroyer rattles the skeletons in closets and asks questions about our true selves, karma and closure. If you like grit in your movies it delivers by the truckload.
4) Prince of the City (1981)
Serpico director Sidney Lumet was back on the corruption beat for this epic, based-on-a-true-story procedural. Those with nearly three hours to spare should join him. Treat Williams plays the already-compromised narcotics detective whose conscience sees him wired up - and watching his back like never before. The tension in the offices is every bit as nail-biting as the scenes on the streets, with Lumet turning the screw-like only a maestro can. Law & Order fans take note: the late, great Jerry Orbach has a big role. Another reason, if needed, to save that Lenny Briscoe binge-watch for another time.
5) The Squeeze (1977)
Arguably, Stacey Keach was never better than as alcoholic ex-detective Jim Naboth in this hardboiled heist movie. Naboth's ex-wife is now married to the owner of a cash-in-transit firm - and she's been kidnapped. Keach's sweaty desperation to put the pieces together, a rundown London and chilling villains (headed by Ben-Hur's Northern Irish star Stephen Boyd in one of his last roles) mean The Squeeze plays out like a much rougher version of The Sweeney - but with a better twist at the end.
6) 36 (36 Quai des Orfèvres) (2004)
Already watched De Niro and Pacino in Heat for the fourth time in the last three days? Try this - a game of thrones between French cinema legends Daniel Auteuil and Gérard Depardieu in Paris' Police Judiciare. Director Olivier Marchal - himself a former officer - deftly contrasts the after-hours loneliness of police life, the moments of chaos and the rivalries and power-plays on and off the street. Auteuil captures the weariness of a burnt-out detective, while Depardieu chomps up his share of scenes as one very bad man. Even a bit of dodgy melodrama can't spoil this one.
7) Straight Time (1978)
The narrator will leave you certain of two things at the end of the trailer: 1) The film stars Dustin Hoffman. 2) It's called Straight Time. Retro gags aside, this is one of Hoffman's best, and most-overlooked, performances. Based on Edward Bunker's (Mr Blue in Reservoir Dogs - he also appears here) book No Beast So Fierce, Straight Time explains his assertion that those with criminal records aren't just locked down, they're also locked out upon release. As the just-paroled Max Dembo, the cast-against-type Hoffman tries to stay out of trouble, only to find that the system appears determined to put him back inside. A savage study of ever-decreasing options and a real word-of-mouth find.
8) Brooklyn's Finest (2009)
It's the performances. Training Day director Antoine Fuqua reunited with star Ethan Hawke and brought Don Cheadle and Richard Gere into the fold to tell the stories of three very different lawmen. Patrolman Eddie Dugan (Gere) has lost his bottle, detective Sal Procida (Hawke) has lost his moral compass and the deep cover Clarence 'Tango' Butler (Cheadle) is losing his mind. Recalling that great saying about being born on a plain and dying in a forest, Brooklyn's Finest is all about what people can live with, what they can't, what the badge has given and what it has taken away. Each character is finding it harder to breathe and think 'straight', all hanging on the hope that something better and peace of mind are just around the corner. Of course we know they're not - the excitement is in watching how long they'll be able to fool themselves.
9) The Old Man & the Gun (2018)
A lighter - and Sunday afternoon-friendly - treat for the times we're in. Having starred in one of the greatest stick-up movies of all time, it was always going to take something special for octogenarian Robert Redford to go on the lam again. Sure enough, this wry character study about ageing, seventy-second chances and the thrill of the chase (in more ways than one) gives him the role he essentially waited a lifetime to play, that of real-life bank robber Forrest Tucker. In his twilight years, the fugitive is still pursuing his vocation, and in 1981 after escaping from San Quentin Prison - his sixteenth breakout - has put together an interstate spree of over 50 heists. Using footage and photos of Redford in his physical prime, The Old Man & the Gun is undeniably poignant. That said, humour and optimism make for quite the big screen elixir, while the screen romance with Sissy Spacek gives any young lovers a run for their money.
10) State of Grace (1990)
How's this for timing? State of Grace was released five days before Goodfellas in the US. That went well... But even with Scorsese reigning supreme, it's a mystery how this Irish-American mafia film from Rattle and Hum director Phil Joanou didn't get a bigger audience. It has Sean Penn, a tour de force Gary Oldman and Robin Wright at its centre; a supporting cast of Ed Harris, John C Reilly, Burgess Meredith and John Turturro; Blade Runner cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth behind the lens; Ennio Morricone's most underrated soundtrack this side of The Thing and a heart-in-mouth finale. If you're looking for ythe epitome of cult classic you're in the best of bad company here.