Saturday 23 September 2023

Movie Review: Across 110th Street (1972)

Genre: Heist Thriller
Director: Barry Shear
Starring: Anthony Quinn, Yaphet Kotto, Anthony Franciosa 
Running Time: 102 minutes

Synopsis: In Harlem, desperate black robbers Jim, Henry, and Joe (Paul Benjamin, Antonio Fargas, and Ed Bernard) bust into a Mafia hideout and get away with $300,000, leaving behind five dead mobsters and two dead cops. Racist and aging Captain Martinelli (Anthony Quinn) is forced to cede authority on the case to Lieutenant Pope (Yaphet Kotto), while the mob unleashes near-psychotic Nick D'Salvio (Anthony Franciosa) to hunt down the thieves and make examples out of them. Harlem gang leader "Doc" Johnson (Richard Ward) tries to manipulate the situation to his advantage, as Jim, Henry, and Joe find their survival options rapidly dwindling.

What Works Well: This grim crime drama is energized by racial tensions and spiced with hard-hitting violence, delivering a love letter to New York's grimiest period. Rarely has the city's 1970s dereliction been better captured, and the soundtrack echoes with energetic desperation as director Barry Shear triangulates the drama with nervous hand-held cameras. The thieves, the avengers, and the cops are each allocated generous screen time, resulting in a tapestry of memorable characters connected by sleaze. Only Yaphet Kotto's Lieutenant Pope stubbornly adheres to a moral compass, but in this environment, just give him time.

What Does Not Work As Well: Anthony Quinn creeps towards hammy overacting, and a few scenes appear to skip over important details.

Conclusion: An impressively pessimistic depiction of crime-riddled urban and ethical decay.

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