Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
USA, 1973. Film Guarantors. Screenplay by Luther Davis, based on the novel Across 110th by Wally Ferris. Cinematography by Jack Priestley. Produced by Fouad Said, Ralph B. Sharpe. Music by J.J. Johnson. Production Design by Perry Watkins. Costume Design by Joseph Fretwell III. Film Editing by Byron ‘Buzz’ Brandt, Carl Pingitore.
The street of the title is the topmost point of Central Park where the Upper West Side becomes Harlem, the setting of this often thrilling caper. Three Harlem gangsters and two Italian mobsters gather in an apartment with three hundred thousand dollars in dirty money and are interrupted by thieves dressed like cops, who gun them down and steal the loot. An angry mafia don sends his dapper but ruthless son-in-law (Anthony Franciosa) to find the three culprits, which means that the police have a limited time to find them first. Trouble at the precinct is almost immediate when aging, racist cop Anthony Quinn is put together with younger, black lieutenant Yaphet Kotto, they aren’t a good fit and it’s a problem when they’re coming up against a Harlem crime boss (Richard Ward) who stands in their way. Shooting the film on the real streets of the city contributes to an exciting, dangerous atmosphere, which along with the upsetting violence helps freshen up the many cliches that the story indulges in, like a cop close to retirement (try and guess what happens). By its second act, the plot starts to sag and, instead of a series of complicated clues that the cops have to follow, there are simply excuses to drum up conflict between characters (particularly to show off Quinn’s toughness). The friction between Quinn and Kotto doesn’t recreate the crackling tension of In The Heat of the Night that the story is going for, but the film’s presentation of a world with no good guys or bad guys, mired in a mess of economic injustice and broken ideals, is an intelligent one, and the conclusion is electric.