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I was a cop with about 10 years on the street when I read Wambaugh's
book, and figured the movie would be terrible. I thought Altman and his
crew caught both the flavor of the book and of life on the mean streets
of LA dead on.
Maybe you had to have been there. I was a great Hill Street fan (still am), but it was sanitized for TV, and much less like the real thing because of needing to maintain a plot line. Life ain't like that, and neither was The Choir Boys.
Cop humor is hard to fathom for outsiders. Cops are, in fact, a minority group anthropologically, meeting all the same criteria. Life out there doesn't go from A to B to C. It's chaotic. So was the movie, a little. Good job of catching the feeling.
It seems like we're supposed to hate this one but I loved it, I'm sorry
but there you go.
Maybe it was because it came out at the time when punk had just happened. To me the book & the movie were such a break from the usual stereotypical pro-authority nonsense we were being regularly served up at the time (and sadly we seem to have gotten back to these days).
Naturally the book was, by far, the better experience (a genuine 'laugh out loud' read to be highly recommended) but nevertheless I found both hilarious and a long overdue reality check on the forelock tugging blind belief in benevolent and always virtuous 'authority' (something which applies well outsides of the confines of any Police unit too).
I think it's a real pity we seem to have lost that very healthy irreverence & scepticism and are today saddled with way too much haughty hard-faced tedium and an expectation that we blindly trust authority figures.
"The Choirboys" is essentially made of two different movies: the first half (and more) is a plotless, "Police Academy" -type (even if it was made several years earlier) comedy, and a fairly consistently UNfunny one, too. It's not that the gags aim mostly at a juvenile level (which they do); it's that they are simply not funny 90% of the time. In its second hour, the movie takes a sharp left turn toward drama, and surprisingly this part works better. But beware! There is a truly immoral finale that will annoy you if you take it seriously. (**)
Once again I am forced to defend a decent movie. I saw this movie when
it came out, I was in college. I thought it was very funny and was a
blend of comedy and drama that was above most of the other fair at that
time. I saw it again recently and while it had perhaps lost a little of
its luster I thought it was still pretty funny. Of course, if you don't
like anyone saying politically incorrect things (even if that person is
presented as a total moron) then you might be too "delicate" to
appreciate the humor.
Tim McIntyre was hilarious as Roscoe Rules and there was a young Randy Quaid, and James Woods as well. Charles Durning is effective in this film and far from hating the ending, I thought it was not "Upbeat" but rather merely stopped the movie from being a total downer.
This is not a bad adaptation of Wambaughs book until the end. For some reason someone decided the movie needed an up-beat ending and blew the black ending of the book.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Robert Aldrich is one of the greatest directors of all time, of the
films I've seen he produced two stone-cold all-time classics, 'Kiss Me
Deadly' and 'Ulzana's Raid', one of my favourite guilty pleasures 'The
Dirty Dozen', as well as highly notable cult films such as The Killing
of Sister George and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, and I'm sure many
others I haven't seen. He was a prolific director noted for being able
to film to a high standard in different genres and styles, defying the
auteur theory of current popularity. Quite how then he created such an
incredibly offensive movie then is a matter to ponder over and only
worth considering because of the director's fame.
The film focuses on a group of puerile, violent, immoral patrol officers and their antics. Once a week they take over the local park for drunken hilarity, and shooting at ducks. Choir practice as they call it. It is hard to think of a more dislikeable bunch. We have uber-redneck Officer Roscoe Rules who enjoys beating up homosexuals; Officer 'Spermwhale' Whalen whose hobby is to continually question authority, undermine his department, and generally spread bad vibes; Officer 'Balls' Hadley, and his good lady, officer 'No Balls' Hadley, the continuous butt of sexual harassment and discrimination; Sergeant Scuzzi (played by Burt Young of Rocky fame) an unkempt unwashed slob from vice who everyone thinks is the precinct janitor; Officer Francis Tanaguchi, the squad's pet 'gook'. etc. These guys are more interested in playing pranks on their superiors and starting fights with 'greasers' than in protecting and serving.
What is astonishing is that apparently the portrayal of this scurvy bunch is actually realistic of police behaviour of the time. Some people think that this redeems the movie, I would suggest however that the treatment of these officers is far too sympathetic. We are supposedly meant to rejoice at the end when all officers involved in the shooting of an innocent gay teenager receive slaps on the wrist. The treatment of homosexuals as simpering, lisping queens is incredibly offensive, particularly the gentleman in the park walking a pink poodle and savouring an encounter with 'a naked man tied to a tree'.
Another reviewer claims that you can't expect much more off of a bunch of Vietnam vets with only high-school diplomas, my goodness have ideals sunk so low? I remember a scene in the film 'Electra Glide in Blue' when a Vietnam Vet who was a highway patrolman gave a 'perp' who was also a vet advice that he couldn't use his service record as an excuse to drop out and behave badly. There is much better moral authority from that movie. No-one needs an excuse for failure, and definitely the officers in this movie have none.
I think the film promotes a stereotypical view of sadomasochism and vice in general, and because it is apologist and even sympathetic in it's approach to the immorality and more importantly extreme irresponsibility of the police officers, I would call it a truly Fascist movie.
Before you go on to complain about this movie, you need to realize it
was filmed 30 years ago. I was 1 year old when this movie came out and
I have grown up around cops.
I have very little doubt these antics used to go on but now they are left as a part of history.
How do you expect a group of guys with a high school diploma, Vietnam war service and a thankless job to behave? Have you ever gotten off work so late the bars are closed but you want to blow off some steam about the things that happened to you? Where do you go when the bars are closed? Just as Blazing Sadles could not be filmed today, I don't think you could film this movie either. I doubt society or departments approved of this behavior but I am certain a blind eye was turned. Now since the Rampart scandal, Rodney King and other incidents nobody can do this anymore.
If you want to try to understand why this movie is funny, try doing a Google search for, "Why cops hate you"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director Robert Aldrich doesn't often deliver a film that falls in the
middle ground. Most of the time, Aldrich's name on the film either
guarantees a good movie or an absolutely terrible one. The Choirboys is
Aldrich at his very worst if you thought The Grissom Gang and Hustle
were bad, you ain't seen nothing yet! It is a tasteless and
repetitively episodic story, a complete mess of a film which merely
reinforces the very prejudices that it is supposedly criticising.
Nothing about the film works, not even slightly. Joseph Wambaugh, who
penned the original novel upon which the movie is based, was so
appalled at this travesty that he took legal action to have his name
removed from the credits! That should tell you all you need to know.
A unit of L.A. cops spend their shifts patrolling the city in search of violence and sleaze. When they're on duty they are little better than thugs with a badge, dishing out justice with total disregard for moral standards and public safety. When they're off duty they are even worse, spending their nights getting drunk in a local park and acting like hooligans. Slowly but surely, each character's motivations are revealed. For example, Officer Sam Lyles (Don Stroud) is shown to be an ex-Vietnam vet whose wartime experiences have left him claustrophobic. In one harrowing scene, he flips out whilst drunk in a locked police van and kills a hustler, a shocking act that the higher echelons of the L.A. force are only too keen to cover up. A pair of cops (Randy Quaid, Tim McIntire) are assigned to talk a suicide jumper down from a high-rise building, but their approach is so unsubtle and aggressive that she ends up flinging herself to her death. One cop, the handsome all-American Baxter Slate (Perry King), is found out as a kinky sex addict and disowned by his colleagues, leading to such personal shame that he commits suicide. And so it goes . the cops continually foul up one job after another with their trigger-happy attitudes, their racist and sexist unprofessionalism, and their reckless disregard for true law and order.
There are those who hail The Choirboys as a blackly comic expose of the police profession. But in truth there is nothing funny about this horrible little film. Aldrich virtually hammers us over the head with extreme vulgarity and offensiveness to make his point, and the approach is so heavy-handed and unpleasant that the film becomes a challenge to sit through. The cast of terrific actors are particularly embarrassing in their thankless roles, none more so than Lou Gossett Jr, Charles Durning and Robert Webber (the latter especially degraded by his part as a callous superior officer with an immoral personal agenda). Christopher Knopf's screenplay offers no glimmer of salvation for the gallery of slimeball characters, so that as the film comes to an end after its interminable two hours the viewer is left with a nasty taste in the mouth and an empty feeling in the stomach. Avoid The Choirboys it's one of the worst of all-time!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Now, before you think I'm just part of some uptight moral majority
that posts disgust at any film that goes beyond the pale, let me just
state for the record that I'm really not easily offended. It's not so
much the constant homophobia, racism & sexism in 'The
Choirboys' that really got my goat (reprehensible though much of
this is). It's the sheer, unabashed hypocricy that this film displays
that really got this viewer steaming...
'The Choirboys'' would simply LOVE to convince you that it's a wild, anti-establishment, anarchic comedy-drama a la Robert Altman's 'MASH', when in reality it's simply one of the most morally conservative, shockingly reactionary and damned mean-spirited movies released to theatres during the 1970's. I'm surprised that William Friedkin's movie 'Cruising' is still remembered today as the ultimate in offensive stereotyping - viewing it now, it just seems too arch, OTT and plain ridiculous to really take seriously. But 'The Choirboys' does indeed remain as repugnant today as the day it was released (and disavowed by it's author).
*SPOILERS* The tone in the movie is chaotic, to say the least: from the sub-'Police Academy' comedy sequences (painful) to the soap-opera level intelligence of the supposedly raw, dramatic moments (which range from mildly offensive to "what the hell were they thinking?"). And the ending? Well, a Vietnam Vet cop (who feels guilty about causing the suicide of his 'pervert' friend, just coz the poor guy liked a bit of private, consensual S&M), freaks out and shoots "a park fag" in the neck, and we then witness the central character (Charles Durning) get everyone off of the ensuing murder charge - and director Aldrich swiftly makes it clear that we're supposed to be cheering these b**tards on! - (cue end titles, which run to a soundtrack of the main cast sneering and laughing maniacally in turn... which is disturbing on WAAAAY more levels than the film-makers planned, let me tell you). *SPOILERS END*
No doubt the filmmakers themselves, alongside a handful of critics, will have you believe that 'hey - this is the way it really is', and that 'The Choirboys' is in fact some gritty, underrated urban classic that refuses to pull it's punches. Balls. 'The Choirboys' is a rabid dog of a movie - a cackling, vitriolic excercise that seems to hate modernity, reality and humanity itself. Don't degrade yourself by giving this disowned puppy two hours of your time...
The Choirboys is flat-out one of my all-time favorite movies!!! I have
read the list of reviews here, and the positive ones are more
insightful than most of the negative reviews, which consist mainly of
"moronic," "insulting," "an outrage," ... blah, blah, blah (or more
precisely "wah, wah, wah").
Don't listen to them -- this is an EXCELLENT movie. Mind you, it won't win any academy awards, but the cast is a who's who of Hollywood superstars. But, of course, they weren't stars when this movie was made -- they were really just breaking into the business, for the most part. Heck, James Woods alone is worth the price of admission!! And do keep in mind that this movie was made 30 years ago -- the cinematography and over-all feel is kind of dark, although there are some hilarious scenes! And I do not apologize for any part of this movie -- of all "police comedies" it is by far the most "real," in that I can imagine very easily a department EXACTLY like the one depicted. (In fact, I MISS the days when cops were REAL PEOPLE -- and not a bunch of ex-Marine Drill Instructors akin to Robocops (no offense to The Marines -- but you know what I mean, don't you?).
Choir Practice, in the movie, is, of course, the weekly drinking fest where the boys (and girls) blow off steam. And typical of 70's movies, there is more than one story going on at the same time -- and a good deal of time is spent developing the array of characters, all with stories of their own.
I like this movie -- and if you like Dirty Harry and think he is AWESOME for KICKING ASS, if you think this world has gotten WAY TO PC for comfort, if you like to party and make no excuses for it -- then you will like this movie, too!
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