Ten minutes into watching Corky Romano (2001), I worried that I had selected the wrong movie to review for FBI policy and procedural accuracy. Could a comedy starring SNL alum Chris Kattan, featuring lame jokes, fart gags, and pratfalls, provide teachable moments?
Here’s the IMDb story summary:
A naive, bumbling veterinarian named Corky Romano, the outcast son of a Mafia boss, is recruited by his family to infiltrate the FBI and steal any and all evidence that will put his cranky father, Francis A. “Pops” Romano, in jail. But he’s in way over his head when he’s made out to be a super agent. It’s a reputation he must live up to as he tries to fake his way through one tough assignment after another while hunting for the elusive, incriminating proof of his father’s illegal activities.
Because I had already invested $3.99 to rent the movie on Prime Video, I stuck to the plan and surfed the wild and unpredictable plot until the very end. Surprisingly, I came up with a few lessons to discuss related to security and evidence storage and retrieval. That’s a good thing. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for me to sit through the movie and I would have had to accept never getting back the one hour and twenty-six minutes spent. Bear with me. I will now seriously discuss investigative observations gleaned from Corky Romano.
To infiltrate the FBI, Corky’s brothers hire a hacker to create for him a fake personnel file that embellished his education, language skills, and law enforcement experience, and transferred him to an FBI field office where he is assigned to a task force hunting down a serial killer. In the real FBI, the Bureau “grapevine” would have immediately started collecting information (aka, book) on the new guy to obtain an assessment of whether he was a team player or an empty suit who didn’t pull his weight. Believe me, there’s no way for an agent to arrive in a new office without his new team hearing beforehand all about his prior triumphs and alleged shortcomings. The informal prescreening review is avoidable. Corky wouldn’t have been able to badge his way into the building without it.
The purpose of Corky going undercover is to steal the evidence the FBI has against his crime boss father. When he key cards his way into the evidence room to grab the evidence, it consists of a single manila envelope of documents. The FBI collects and stores evidence such as photos, FD-302 narrative interview summaries, internal documents, memos and transcripts in digital and physical files. Drugs and other bulky evidence are stored in evidence vaults. Files containing information related to human sources (HUMINT) and electronic surveillance (ELSUR) materials are separately stored elsewhere. And because evidence maintained without adhering to strict chain of custody procedures could be deemed tainted and inadmissible for trial, everything is secured, documented, and the identity of those who seek to access the evidence is tracked. It’s all based on “need to know,” and in real life, Corky wouldn’t need to know anything about an Organized Crime case he wasn’t assigned to work.
Spoil Alert: The movie ends when the FBI discovers Corky’s true identity. But all is forgiven because he solves the serial killer case. This is not how this matter would be resolved in real life. Unfortunately, FBI agents have been arrested for stealing from the evidence vault (usually drugs seized during their own cases) and accepting bribes to pass evidence to subjects under investigation. These sad incidents always result in multi-count indictments and significant prison time. The Bureau doesn’t go easy on agents who betray their oath to protect and serve.