Double-featuring with Cotton Comes to Harlem, this is set in some of the same locations, driving past the Apollo during opening titles. And it’s a grim, joyless take on the same sort of story – cops and rival criminals all looking for stolen money, with a pair of cops as our heroes. This one replaces the humor and nudity with extra violence and racism, and yes it kills racist corrupt terrible cop Anthony Quinn in the final moments, but I got the feeling it wanted us to see this as a dark/unhappy ending.
Thieves dressed as cops rob a money room, killing everyone in it, and the Italians in charge want revenge – “We have to teach them a lesson, or we lose harlem.” Anthony Quinn is very mad that Yaphet Kotto is put in charge of his investigation, meanwhile Italian gangster Nick is reminding Black gangster Doc who pulls the strings, and the rest of the movie is Nick torturing the Black thieves and Anthony brutalizing Black suspects, while Yaphet and Doc stand by uncomfortably.
One weird thing about this movie: each character states their age aloud, I think the point being that everyone’s slightly desperate because they’re past the age when they should’ve been advancing in their organizations – or I’m giving the screenwriter too much credit.
I liked Paul Benjamin as the murderous lead robber (who throws his share of the cash to a playground full of kids as he’s dying) – he’d later play one of the three shit-talking corner guys in Do The Right Thing. His girl Gloria would play Maya Angelou’s sister in Poetic Justice, and Italian torturer Anthony Franciosa would star in Tenebre. Connections with Cotton: Doc’s enforcer Chevy led Cotton‘s five-man Black Berets group, and the robbers’ getaway driver Antonio Fargas (the first to die, after being extremely uncareful about throwing stolen money around) was in Putney Swope, which was shown playing on a marquee in Cotton. Shear followed up by replacing the fired Sam Fuller on The Deadly Trackers, which now I have even less incentive to watch.