New Centurions, The (1972)

The New Centurions (1972), directed by Richard Fleischer.

Senior cops George C. Scott, Clifton James and Ed Lauter mentor rookies Stacy Keach, Scott Wilson and Erik Estrada.

The "police patrolman" had been a busy genre in film and TV, but I don't know that it has gotten much critical attention. In some ways it is formula: working class cops in difficult low-paying jobs, expected to be police and social worker and psychologist all at once. Boredom and revolting duties punctuated by moments of terror. The stress on their families, the risks of alcoholism.

Too fast on the trigger and you may kill an innocent person. Too slow and you may be dead.

Then as now it is mostly white cops and mostly black and hispanic citizens. The tension is always there and even then the militarization of the police was a concern.

This was made in the middle of the creative indie decade when you could have stories about difficult times with no happy ending. It probably wouldn't be made today.

It has a great funny scene: directed to pick up a quota of prostitutes, the patrolmen load them in the wagon, get them some booze and just drive them around awhile, which suits everyone. The working girls' conversation and quips are hilarious. Then the cops let them out: "They're too drunk to work now". Many familiar faces from TV and blaxploitation films.

The senior cops are supporting characters in the story, but the eye is always drawn to them. I love seeing Jane Alexander (a rookie's wife) and Dolph Sweet (desk sergeant). William Atherton's first film.

Rosalind Cash also lights up the screen whenever she's on. Last seen in The Omega Man (1971) and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984).

Quincy Jones score.

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time. The commentary track is a heartfelt, nostalgic conversion between Nick Redman and Scott Wilson.

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