In Harlem, two Italian mobsters meet three black gangsters that work to the kingpin Doc Johnson to collect dirty money from their associates in an apartment building. Out of the blue, the smalltime thieves Jim Harris and Joe Logart knock on the door disguised as police officers to steal US$ 300,000.00 from the Mafia. However, they startle when the suitcase with the money falls on the floor and Jim kills the five men with a machine gun. They flee to the runaway car driven by Henry J. Jackson and they kill two policemen. The idealist NYPD Lt. Pope and the violent Capt. Mattelli investigate the case while the Italian Mafia and the black gangsters hunt the killers down. Will Jim Harris and his accomplices be found?Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The original UK cinema version was cut by the BBFC with edits made to nearly all the fight scenes and shots of beatings, and heavy cuts to shootings and a man on fire during the climax. All later releases were uncut. See more »
While not truly "blaxploitation", the integrated cast is of major interest in this story (based on a novel by Wally Ferris) strongly and memorably depicting racial differences. Two detectives, a veteran Italian-American named Mattelli (Anthony Quinn) and an up and coming black, Lt. Pope (Yaphet Kotto), are forced to work together while investigating the case of three black men (two of them disguised as cops) who ripped off money from a Mafia controlled bank. Now it's up to Mattelli and Pope to find the three men before the Mafia is able to get their revenge.
There's some wonderful acting in this tough and gritty film, given straightforward treatment by director Barry Shear and featuring plenty of authentic Harlem locations. It's got quite a lot of hard hitting violence, and may be uncomfortable to watch at times for some viewers. The music by J.J. Johnson is superb and there are also great songs by Bobby Womack on the soundtrack. There's one ingenious cut a little past the 77 minute mark. The pacing is quite effective and the storytelling always interesting and compelling.
Quinn is solid as the old school, bigoted veteran and Kotto is his match as the more disciplined, efficient younger man. Anthony Franciosa is fun in a key supporting role as a mob henchman, and the cast is peppered with many familiar faces. Delivering standout performances are the raspy voiced Richard Ward as gangster Doc Johnson and Paul Benjamin as determined career criminal Jim Harris. Viewers will enjoy themselves spotting actors and actresses such as George DiCenzo, Antonio Fargas, Paul Harris, Gloria Hendry, Gilbert Lewis, Charles McGregor, Robert Sacchi, Marlene Warfield, Mel Winkler, and Burt Young.
Overall this is potent entertainment and deserves its place among the great NYC-based films of the 1970s.
Quinn and Shear were the executive producers.
Eight out of 10.
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