Thursday, May 24, 2012

Across 110th Street is a hell of a tester

Across 110th Street (1972) - Shear
across the 110th Street
Capt. Martelli (Anthony Quinn), a Harlem veteran, honkey with loose knuckles, is obviously displeased when a young black Lt. named Pope (Yaphet Kotto) declares himself in charge in a high profile murder case of money laundering gone awry btwn mafia and black folks. Bringing Pope in was a political decision by the higher-ups. The three suspects of the massacre are on the loose only to be hounded by mafia and cops alike. The (anti)hero of the film is Jim Harrison (Paul Benjamin), a down and out parolee who pulls out the job with the others and dreams of a small time happiness with his aging girlfriend who works at a club. Even though he is a ruthless killer, you root for him somehow, feeling his sadness all the way through the final shootout.

110th St. is that archetypal 70s New York film: dirty streets, scant characterizations, appearances by many NY character actors and moral muck all captured in energetic and gritty handheld camera. Even Bobby Wormack's titular song is in its mono-glory, quite different from the superslick cleaned-up version Tarantino uses in Jackie Brown. Its un-stylized violence and melancholy without cornball make Michael Mann movies look like high school plays. It doesn't cater to John Singleton style hammering approach to make a social comment either. I loved it.