Criminally underrated 70's crime pic.....fully equal to Dirty Harry & The French Connection, but virtually unheard of at least here in the UK- I IMPLORE fans of hardboiled urban thrillers to check this out, you won't be disappointed! 3 black hoods rob $300,000 from the mafia, killing 2 cops and some mobsters in the process. The mob send in Nick D'salvio, a paranoid sadist married to the bosses daughter & desperate to prove himself worthy to his formidable father in law. The two senior policemen on the case are like chalk and cheese- Capt. Martelli is 55 & a corrupt, hardened, cynical veteran of the streets whose time is clearly drawing to a close. Wheras Lt. Pope is a young black detective- ambitious but fundamentally honest & by the book, and therefore appalled by Martelli's violent and sometimes illegal methods. What raises this film above the norm isn't the rather generic plot. The performances are uniformly excellent- but it's really the writing and directing that elevate this film to greatness.....Martelli and Pope (played by Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto respectively) don't become "buddies" like Riggs and Mortaugh in Lethal Weapon, the simmering tension & mistrust between them remains- as it would in real life. The 3 robbers, whilst never glamourised (only one is shown as having any kind of real conscience, and their leader is dangerously & unpredictably violent), are far from cardboard cut out bad guys- they're all three dimensional characters, a realistic mix of good and bad, with understandable motives. The psychopathic D'Salvio on the other hand is a truly nasty piece of work with no redeeming features, but even he is intriguingly multi-layerd- particularly in his dealings with the positively Machiavellian boss of the Harlem crime syndicate Doc Johnson, in his own way the most ruthless and streetwise character in the movie.....On paper D'Salvio is the senior mobster, and so should have the upper hand, but Johnson expertly plays on his insecurities to gain the upper hand in a masterfully played scene. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the film is how well it has aged- made over 40 years ago it still holds up well today. Also the level of violence is very strong, even when compared to the many other tough thrillers of the time, but it's never gratuitous- like The French Connection, this is a film about the seamy side of life in New York's ghetto, and director Barry Shear captures the mood and texture of grim n gritty 70's Harlem in a way few have managed. A must see for those who like their thrillers edgy, realistic and uncompromising!