It’s a Cole-off!
After watching True Detective, I decided I needed more detective action in my life and replayed LA Noire. Second time around, it didn’t seem so shiny. I figured it was partly because TD‘s Rustin Cohle is just vastly superior to LA Noire‘s Cole Phelps. Let’s review the evidence…
Obviously fashion is a pretty subjective thing, but Rustin Cohle manages to bring a certain elan to even his less conventional outfits. Whether its leaving his biker tats on show while wearing a sharp suit, or channelling red-neck chic with a ponytail, Cohle’s so cool he accessorizes his leather jacket with bullet holes. Cole, on the other hand, swings wildly between uptown lawyer and downtown hack. It’s just hard to take a guy in a two-tone jacket seriously. On a scale of Lund to Jane, Cole is baggy jumpers all the way.
Cohle’s fighting style is pretty interesting as far as detective shows go. He’s not so much a martial arts expert as a bloody-minded idiot. He gets through by being adaptable and rolling with the punches rather than having any dazzling level of skill. Obviously Cole’s skills are only as good as his controller’s, so in my game, he was a pretty terrible shot, but an excellent brawler. The guy deserves kudos for being able to punch someone into unconsciousness without dislodging his hat but loses points for never learning that a waiting criminal will always cold-cock him in the face.
Winner: It’s a draw
Let’s not beat around the bush – Cole is a dribbling idiot. He compromises crime scenes by blundering through them touching everything. He sits on corpses in order to examine them. He has to replace every single wrench in a display to determine which one is missing, instead of comparing the one he already has to the ones in the garage and finding immediately that there’s a match. Cohle on the other hand is able to follow obscure leads and make arcane connections between bundles of twigs and cultish church murals. He spouts nonsense about flat circles and meat threshers and makes it sound like the most profound thing you ever heard. Even drunk and drug-addled, Cohle is smarter than Phelps on his best day.
If you play LA Noire as badly as I do, then Cole gets shot, punched and kicked in the face A LOT. Yet still he gamely jogs into shoot-outs, pursues criminals across crumbling movie sets, takes ill-advised excursions into the sewer and manages not to have a nervous breakdown. He’s a war hero (of sorts) and has one of the most varied police careers in history working for pretty much every department LAPD has to offer.
Cohle may not have the horrors of war to dwell on, but he still has PTSD thanks to a dead daughter and traumatic experiences deep undercover in a drug cartel. Everything he does is weird and badass, from his damning indictment of religion to making little men out of discarded beer cans. Much as I wanted to dismiss True Detective as another dose of grizzled white man protagonists, Cohle is just too troubled, too awesome, too complex to dismiss. Cohle’s final moment of peril was literally gut-wrenching (excuse the pun) while Cole’s evoked little more than a shrug. Jack Kelso was always the star of LA Noire in my book anyway.
WHO IS THE TRUE DETECTIVE? Was there ever any doubt? Rustin Cohle of course.