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A nearly blind rental, the George Peppard vehicle "Newman's Law" impressed me more than I'd have imagined. It's a solid cop flick from the great days of cop flicks, and takes place in Los Angeles. Interestingly, the downbeat approach to it made me think San Francisco, yet without the trolleys and hills. This is a testament to the workmanship of the film- it's not about the glitz of LA, it's about the hard life of an 15+ year veteran detective on the job, still plugging away though getting old.
The most difficult part of the film is that there is a vibe of television drama to it that try as it might, it cannot shake free of. This is the first film directed by Richard T. Heffron, who also directed the well known Peppard show "Banacek". Something about the seriousness of the characters, even though a good effort was put forward to flesh out their personages, smacks of period cop show. Not to insinuate that period cop shows were particularly bad, just think that this film has a little bit more "Kojak" than it does "CHiPs".
The cast for this film was excellent. Peppard is not to be outdone, as Newman he's merely reserved and serious, a man of principles who will not tolerate graft or corruption. He is not a racist nor is he the ham-fisted violent cop so popular in film following "The French Connection." Roger Robinson, a black actor who is admittedly new to me, is excellent as his loyal partner Garry, who we see developed far beyond the basic black/white buddy-film aesthetic. Garry has a child and a wife(the stately Marlene Clark) and a life that is shown to contrast with that of Newman. Newman is the loner and Garry has it more together. Eugene Roche is a superior of the police, Abe Vigoda plays an accurate mafioso, Victor Campos is a great new recruit flatfoot, and actor/jazz saxophonist Mel Stewart is a crime boss. As you can see, many TV actors abound in this production.
It's got a good, darker-than-usual tone to it, similar to the excellent "Busting" of the same time period. Dimly-lit scenes and Peppard's excellent styles (he wears some very slick jackets in this) give "Newman's Law" some real power. One of the better, lesser-known cop flicks of the early 70s.
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