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A policeman is among the victims when the passengers of a late-night bus are machine-gunned. With only one semi- conscious survivor and no other witnesses, the detectives try to learn from the identities of the dead why this happened and who the killer could be. Climax includes excellent chase. Written by
David Carroll <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the original screenplay, Martin was supposed to laugh at the end, true to the film's title. This idea was abandoned, either by director Stuart Rosenberg or Walter Matthau during shooting. See more »
The Anthony Zerbe character is Lieutenant "Styner" according
to his desk nameplate, but "Steiner" in the closing credits. See more »
This sullen, violent police drama is as detailed an investigation as you will find on film. The opening scene of The Laughing Policeman is extremely tense and sets the tone for a Dirty-Harry-style flick that delivers one of Matthau's moodiest performances. Basically, a mass murder takes place on a San Francisco bus, and we find out that a policeman was one of the victims. He turns out to be Matthau's late partner. Bruce Dern is assigned to be his new partner, working with Matthau, a conflict of interest, to find out why this SFPD detective was on the bus in the first place. Their subsequent relationship is a play the standard, portrayed in the Laughing Policeman as "mute cop/bad cop". So, teams of gritty cops (a young Lou Gossett) meander through the roughest neighborhoods of San Francisco bullying pimps, pushers, hip drag queens and sidewalking street-wheelers in an attempt uncover what turns out to be a very complex underworld fraternity. The purpose (seeing as this plays as a Matthau character study), to quell Matthau's melancholic contribution to this Dirty Harry spin-off. It is more violent and much more precise than Dirty Hary but not as entertaining. A must see, however, for all Matthau fans.
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