Across 110th Street (1972)

Across 110th Street (1972), directed by Barry Shear.

In Harlem, two men dressed as cops rob a Mob bank. It goes bad and we have a massacre. Now the Italian and Black mobs as well as the police are after them. It doesn't look good. There will be blood and torture and death.

I had never seen this before and it is remarkably intense and gritty filmmaking. Excessively violent but nostalgically appealing.

It has problems: it looks like some scenes were chopped out, and it loses focus, for example in Anthony Quinn's pointless blustering with the black mob boss. We sometimes lose contact with our most interesting characters:

Anthony Quinn also produced the picture. His aging detective is a good character: too tough and on the take ("I only take gambling money," he says pathetically), accused of racism, but on the other hand he knows everyone in the precinct and tries to help people he likes. Honestly: he doesn't quite fit into the movie.

Yaphet Kotto is his up and coming replacement: squeaky clean and by the book, but naive.

Many other familiar faces in small roles:

Discussion boards debate whether this is properly Blaxploitation or not. Categorization is pretty unimportant, but the film does have elements of the genre: action plot, score and low budget, violence and bitterly rude language. I think of Blaxploitation as having a jive vs cool fantasy slant, but this one is all fear and sweat. We're also missing the awkward comedy: when Antonio ("Huggy Bear") Fargas begins pimping up and clowning, we're not laughing because we know the setup will deliver horrific results.

The title song was featured in Jackie Brown and other films.