Friday, November 19, 2010
Across 110th street (1972)
“What else brings whites to Harlem but business?” With those words Yaphet Kotto’s character Lt. Pope, opens a new relationship with his new partner, the old grumpy racist Captain Mattelli (Anthony Quinn). The place is Harlem, across the 110th street. On the other side rules the Italian mob, but here there’s other kings.
Three robbers massacre a couple of accountants, belonging to the mafia, and some of their own people from Harlem, and flee with 300000 dollars. Outside a couple of cops die and now they have to hide both from the mafia, the Harlem gangsters and Mattelli and Pope. The latter is a new cop, with new ideas and with a more human way to deal with criminals. Mattelli prefers to beat the shit out of them, innocent or not. He has a problem with black people, but accepts a bribe from them every month in order to finance his gambling problems, or so he say. Maybe it’s just greed?
Executive produced by Anthony Quinn, this is probably one of the best and most powerful parts the old fart did during his career. It’s an honest and very realistic view into the head of a bitter, old idiot that have problem accepting the new generation of cops.
Across 110th Street is a very brutal movie, with a fantastic documentary-feeling. Everything seems to be shot on location, and that gives the movie an aura of authenticity. The squibs are bloody and the hits are hard, this is one helluva movie in the gritty tradition of American seventies cinema.
Now, let’s talk about Yaphet Kotto. The man is a powerhouse of acting, a remarkable performer which probably is one of the best actors of his generation. He was hardly a beginner in 1972, with around twenty movie- and TV productions behind him and probably a lot of theatre. Here he steals every scene he’s in, maybe not from Quinn – because they’re charging each other with some amazing performances. As the cliché say, its electricity in the air when these to get together on screen.
Both Kotto and Quinn plays versions of stereotypes, but their characters is so well written and with them in the leads it can’t go wrong. You never know where you have Kotto, and the scene where he suddenly lets Quinn beat up a bad guy – even if it’s something he don’t like – is a fantastic touch of that buddy-feeling that people have been trying to copy ever since.
Across 110th Street could be my favourite cop-movie from the seventies, loaded with the batteries of two magnificent actors provoking each other to something seldom seen. A true classic, one of the best.