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In a daring robbery, some $300,000 is taken from the Italian mob. Several mafiosi are killed, as are two policemen. Lt. Pope and Mattelli are two New York City cops trying to break the case. Three small-time criminals are on the run with the money. Will the mafia catch them first, or will the police? Written by
Ken Miller <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Bloody cop show, dated in some aspects but still worthwhile for its damning view of gangland society.
The significance of 110th Street in New York is that it is the line where Central Park ends and Harlem begins. This ultra-violent '70s cop thriller wastes no time in painting the streets of Harlem as a hard, gritty, unforgiving pit where the law has little meaning and the only way to earn respect is by fear or money. While the years have slightly diminished the film's power to startle, there's still no denying that for its time this is indeed a strong, raw, bleak piece of cinema.
Three down-at-heel blacks - Jim Harris (Paul Benjamin), Joe Logart (Ed Bernard) and Henry J. Jackson (Antonio Fargas) - disguise themselves as cops and storm into a Mafia-controlled numbers bank where they proceed to steal $300,000. However, the heist turns violent and the three robbers end up killing everyone in the room, including a few Mob guys, several blacks, and even a couple of real cops who happen by. The Mob send in a small-time hood with big-time ambitions, the violent and trigger-happy Nick D'Salvio (Antony Franciosa), to find the three crooks. Meanwhile, Harlem gang lord Doc Johnson (Richard Ward) puts his own guys on the trail of the trio of robbers. Caught up in the hunt too are cops Frank Mattelli (Anthony Quinn) and Det-Lt. Pope (Yaphet Kotto), the former an aging hard-nut who uses violence and intimidation to get results, the latter a young and honest black officer who prefers diplomacy wherever possible.
Rarely has New York been portrayed as such a living hell, certainly for those living in poverty and squalor. Initially, the viewer is repulsed by the three robbers for what they've done, but quickly they are made to look positively sympathetic as the truly repulsive supporting characters are introduced - Franciosa, chillingly psychopathic; Ward, ruthless and manipulative; and Quinn, totally lost in corruption and aggression. Only Kotto's character shows any grain of decency and optimism in this ugly society. Viewed nowadays, the film has a slightly dated feel to it which lessens the relevance of some of the social comment being explored. Quinn and Kotto don't get enough time on-screen either, which is a shame as their volatile working-relationship isn't explored as much as it could be and the twist ending lacks impact because their characters haven't been sufficiently developed. However, Across 110th Street still deserves to be seen for its ground-breaking violence, its hard-boiled action, and its relentlessly damning views of New York's ethnic wasteland in the early '70s.
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