It's a pretty dumb title -- "Cops and Robbers." Sounds as if it ought to be a gritty urban crime tale starring maybe Steven Segal. Instead it's a good-natured look at two ordinary New York City cops who are tired of the violence and selfishness they see on the job, the greed and perspiration. They dream about getting their share of the goods too so that one of them (Cliff Gorman) can take his family to Bermuda and the other (Joseph Bologna) can become a farmer in Saskatchewan.
The cops contact a mafioso (John Ryan) and tell him they want to get out, and they plan on doing it by stealing something and selling it to him for disposal. "What do you plan to steal?" asks Ryan. "Whatever you'll pay two million dollars for," replies Gorman.
So they stage a robbery along lines suggested by Ryan, robbing an investment firm of ten million dollars worth of bearer bonds. The man who runs the firm, Mr. Eastpool (Shephard Strudwick) and his secretary (Ellen Holly, a dish) cooperate fully -- and for good reason. Afterward they claim TWELVE million was stolen, stealing the extra two million for themselves. "One million apiece!" Bologna exclaims in disgust. The two don't actually steal anything because they are forced by circumstances to destroy the bonds. But they cheat Ryan out of the two million he agreed to pay, and the film ends with the pair lazing in the back yard of their modest home, smiling and gazing contentedly at an airliner way up there in the sky.
The amusement is tempered with a good deal of suspense before and after the robbery as the usual things go wrong and reality intrusions occur.
Gorman and Bologna work well together, the former slightly wall eyed and a little insane, the latter cherubic and frightened. In their false mustaches, each looks a little like Groucho Marx. Strudwick and Holly are better than simply good enough, too.
Much of the credit must go to the director, Aram Avakian, watching whose documentary, "Jazz on a Summer's Day," was almost as good as being there. Avakian gets a lot of smiles out of events in long shot. (The kids might not get it.) Example: Ryan is having his record typed up for an interview in the police station, looking very very Italian. "What's your name?" asks the cop tonelessly from behind the desk. "Patsy O'Neal," replies the smiling Ryan easily. The cop doesn't bat an eye as he types in, "Anielli, Pasquale." Well, another example, because that last one didn't involve a long shot. A half dozen mafia types wearing shades and flowered shirts are leaning against the wall in front of a high mafioso's headquarters when Ryan's long limousine pulls up. Ryan sits patiently in the car while the armed goons spread out in a circle, like the Praetorian Guard, hands fondling the guns packed into their belts, eyes searching for enemies. Nothing much is made of it but the scene is quite funny. I won't describe any of the other amusing scenes except to say that you have to look for them. The comedy is effective but not outrageous. Nobody falls on his behind, and after the first few minutes there is no shooting.
Easy going and diverting film, worth watching.
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