By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Regular citizens become cops.
Due to the recent death of Ernest Borgnine I felt a review of this film, which features Borgnine in a very strong and effective performance, would be appropriate. The story deals with two middle-aged men named Willie and Cy (Carroll O’Connor, Ernest Borgnine) who after being robbed decide to join the police force as auxiliary cops. Their escapades start out as lighthearted and comical, but eventually they become faced with some serious consequences.
This is a rare film appearance for O’Connor who performed in a lot of movies during the 60’s, but did very little once he became a household name with ‘All in the Family’. It is fun to see him though the role doesn’t exercise his acting talents enough. He is a toned down version of Archie and comes off as boring and benign with a smiling face button on his coat that is annoying. His two best scenes come when he tries to pretend he is a young urban street punk and as a cab driver with a nice way of handling two obnoxious passengers.
It is actually Borgnine that steals the picture. Usually he is more of an unassuming supporting player, but here he comes into his realm. He is funny in a cantankerous way, but with some good dramatic moments in-between. Watching him angrily smash up a stolen bicycle with a lead pipe is intense and memorable. He proves that he might have made a good Archie Bunker had O’Connor not been available.
The female cast runs hot and cold in terms of performances. It was fun to see Ann Wedgeworth, a native Texan, transplanted into the role of a Bronx housewife. Karen Black though is outrageously wasted in two very brief and meaningless scenes as an over-sexed hair stylist.
The story on the whole is alright. The beginning features a lot of amusing, fast paced comical adventures. The problem really begins towards the middle when the film shifts to a more serious tone, which bogs down the pace and fractures the narrative. You get roped into thinking this is a good comedy and then find it is anything but. The drama isn’t bad, but it doesn’t mesh well with the silliness. It also veers too much from the main premise making the message and point of view confusing. It tries to tackle too many topics, but fails to make any type of meaningful or lasting statement in the process.
Overall the film is good enough to keep you captivated and on the most part it is entertaining. Yet the story is disjointed and frustrating. The music played over the opening credits sounds like something for a senior citizens dance party and was a horrible choice. However, the on-location shooting of New York City is great and gives the viewer an authentic feel of an average urban neighborhood.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: October 9, 1974
Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes
Director: Ivan Passer
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD
I remember seeing the latter half of this movie many years ago and being understanding enough of the fatefully sad ending. Thanks for your review.