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The subject of this television pilot is an investigation of heroin trafficking in New York City, emphasizing a law enforcement task force and representatives of its three jurisdictional elements: a City Police detective (Cliff Gorman), an agent of the F.B.I. (Don Blakely) and a New York State trooper (Richard Gere), and their efforts to bring major criminals to bay. The tale is based on a story by Sonny Grosso and the production team is responsible for originating THE FRENCH CONNECTION, with the best scenes predictably those that propel the action yet allow local colour to tinge the proceedings. At only 74 minutes, the film bounds along briskly, but unfortunately this is due in the main to a large degree of cutting that grounds many scenes without a frame of reference to join them with the flow of the plot. A fundamental cause for the failure of the pilot to be accepted is a dearth of chemistry among the three leads, with Blakely and Gere (in his first cinema appearance) somewhat lacklustre, leaving Gorman, a fine actor, properly dominant, thereby shifting the relevance of the task force operation to an N.Y.P.D. focus. Heroin missing from the Department's Property Section becomes the principal investigative target for the three thrown-together partners, and resultant political ramifications for the Police Commissioner are touched upon, but only a trace of logic seeps through, leaving a viewer asea because of the storyline's untapped potential. Various New York City neighbourhoods serve as filming locations, the customary argots enhancing the episodic character of the butchered script, with Gorman utilized effectively amid the unknowing extras supplied by Gotham. Although the climax is rushed and certainly not memorable, the cinematography of Jack Priestley is, contributing immensely to the production's potential excitement, with primarily post-production decisions crippling the piece.
This failed pilot for a possible TV cop show plays like a watered down made-for-TV version of "The French Connection." Your standard motley assortment of mismatched law enforcers -- wiseguy narcotics detective from the New York neighborhood Cliff Gorman, stuffy by-the-book FBI agent Donald Blakely, and an eager beaver rookie surveillance expert played by a very young and then unknown Richard Gere -- join together to thwart a nefarious Big Apple heroin drug ring (late, great longtime favorite sleazeball character actor Joe Spinell pops up as one of the despicable no-count dope dealers). The story is every bit as trite and predictable as the above synopsis suggests, but fortunately the brisk direction by Barry ("Wild in the Streets," "Across 110th Street") Shear, several thrilling action scenes, solid acting from a good cast (Gorman in particular is quite lively and engaging while Gere acquits himself nicely in one of his first-ever thespic gigs), and a pleasingly short'n'snappy 74 minute running time make this item a perfectly enjoyable, if altogether unremarkable diversion.
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