6 July 2005 | Sturgeon54
Great Popcorn Entertainment
Gordon Parks, the prolific black Life magazine photographer, made a true ticking-timebomb of a movie here - one that does not mess around! Based upon the true story of two NYC cops - later dubbed Batman and Robin - who singlehandedly employed radical tactics to clean up their precinct neighborhood of drugs, this is a cop-buddy movie before that term became a repetitive formula. Lightning paced, there is not one unimportant throwaway scene here.
Man, early '70s NYC must have been a terrible place to be a police officer, from the looks of movies like this and "Serpico." These two cops start out as safety-division rookies, busting dealers in plainclothes in their spare time. But instead of receiving applause from the city police department, they receive nothing but resistance and antagonism from their peers. They have to singlehandedly navigate a minefield of police and legal corruption, boneheaded assignments meant to keep them from their work on the streets, ruthless drug kingpins, and a nasty ghetto neighborhood.
Both David Selby and Ron Leibman are fantastic in the leads; part of the entertainment is watching Leibman's eyes darting around crazily in every scene in what is a flawless comic performance, and Selby's acting is low-key and wry. These two make all the comedy aspects of the story work - displaying a palpable frustration mixed with gutsy determination. Director Parks, who was already known for his coverage of controversial subjects in his photography, does not shy away from the grittiness of the story. Rather, the movie is uncompromising in portrayal of the toughness of the world of police and streets criminals that these two men inhabit. Adding to this realism is the fact that the real Hantz and Greenberg acted as technical advisors for the film, and even appear in surreal cameo roles as two fellow officers who ridicule the protagonists. It is a real tribute to the effectiveness of Parks' direction that he manages to perfectly balance this depressing mileu with bright comedy.