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Danforth is assigned to take over the police department in a section of a large city saddled with juvenile delinquency, petty crimes, graft and also a recent unsolved murder of a strip-tease dancer. Recognizing the laxity of the department he implements many changes and soon finds himself under fire by the newspapers, the attorney of a racket leader and the denizens of this human jungle. He calls this a cop's war that is the same as a soldier's war with the difference being that people hate cops. His cause isn't helped when a rookie policeman accidentally kills an innocent bystander. And he has to protect police informer Mary Abbott from Swados, a killer in the hire of the man behind the petty mobsters.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Relevant but without moral complexity, character development or an insightful narrative it is just a standard entry in a crowded genre
When he is invited down to visit friend Police Chief Abe Rowan, Captain John Danforth finds a precinct full of lazy and unmotivated cops surrounded by a district overrun by juvenile delinquency and crime most notably a high profile murder that has just occurred. Danforth challenges Rowan and as a result Rowan throws the job back at him and Danfoth finds himself in temporary charge and determined to turn the precinct around. Breaking the news to his wife is only the first of many challenges to confront Danforth as he tackles his own men, small crime, organised hoods and internal red tape.
As the sagely Theo has already commented, this is a film that surprisingly still has a lot of relevance in the UK at the moment, what with police over stretched, "justice" being seen as something that doesn't exist in the real world anymore and police seemingly hampered by red tape while their standing within the community drops away to nothing. So with that background this film is instantly interesting after the ten-minute set up sees Danforth facing similar challenges and taking them on. However despite this unintentional realism, the film is fairly straightforward without any great imagination but it does still do enough to be gritty and interesting on its own terms. Although not morally complex enough to really be classed as a noir, it is still gritty as a story and produce the usual hardnosed, tough-talking delivery. The story is reasonable enough although the simplistic view of one officer turning around an entire area is perhaps hard to swallow whenever the daily news here suggests that the system can defeat any enthusiastic officer. In that regard, Danforth will be seen as a rallying cry to the Right (he even dismisses the accidental shooting of a pedestrian by one of his officers as being just part of a war), but his policies will produce very little empathy from the more liberal sections of the audience.
The cast can't really do much with the material and deliver fairly average performances across the board. Merrill barks around the screen with a constant righteous indignation and hardline approach that didn't totally convince me the film would have been more interesting if it had really delved into his character in the way that it kept suggesting it would but never really did. Sterling is unconvincing and quite unnecessary like her emotional observations on Danforth are designed to replace the development of him as a character, and that the director just wanted us to know the man in as simple a way as possible. Waltz is OK but Meyer is fairly stiff in his scenes and is too clearly an apologetic soft touch.
Overall this is an OK film with gritty material but far too straightforward a plot and foundation to really make for an interesting, complex story with no easy answers. Instead it gradually falls into a standard crime thriller plot and the manipulative and hardline character of Danforth is just accepted without much thought or development. Considering how relevant it still is today it is a real shame it didn't do better but as it is it's a standard crime affair with nothing to really make it stand out from a crowded genre.
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