Two disillusioned New York policemen plan a $10 million robbery to fuel their low pensions, only to run into one debacle after another in the process.
"We're desperate criminals maam. We're engaged in a major robbery!"
Some movies are made and broken by audience expectations. If you go into a thriller expecting suspense and find out you're getting a comedy - the results can be a bit off-putting. The same can easily be said about the opposite because an adrenalin kick can be a bit awkward when all you want is a good belly laugh. In the case of Aram Avakian's 'Cops and Robbers' this mashup of a screwball comedy and a police thriller is actually a refreshing rebuff of audience expectation as the film proves to be a an amusing thriller.
It isn't an easy job being but two of the few honest cops in New York city. For Tom (Cliff Gorman) and his partner Joe (Joseph Bologna) they see the worst of the city day in and day out. They ride to work together musing on what a different life would be like, fantasizing about how a million bucks would make all of the difference. They're even needled about their honesty from friends because everyone expects a cop to be on the take even going so far as to bag up some groceries and walk right out the door without paying. The constant harassment from friends and the tiring thankless job pushes these two honest men into plotting the crime.
When a bunch of mob fences get dragged into the precinct, the wheels get turning in Tom's head. What they're going to need is something big, something only a select few people would have a use for and it needs to be something worth two million dollars. Tom leafs through some old mugshots and finds his buyer, Patsy O'Neil (John P. Ryan). After Tom slips into Patsy's mansion for a meeting wearing a ridiculous wig and mustache, Patsy O'Neil puts the would be criminal cops onto the perfect score - Wall Street. By taking out a securities bank and robing them of $10 million is barer bonds, Patsy will give them twenty cents on the dollar - that comes to $1 million apiece. The catch is Patsy wants to hear about the heist in the news. If it's not on the news, it didn't happen in his book.
With the perfect mark in mind, Tom and Joe need to plan the perfect heist, that means knowing when and where to make the snatch and grab. The where is easy, it doesn't take the two burgeoning criminals long to make their mark - when to do it is an entirely different matter. They get their opportunity with a massive city-wide parade for the Apollo 11 astronauts! With millions of people turning out to see the heroes of the hour, Tom and Joe can slip into the securities building, work their way inside dressed in uniform, hijack the bank manager and make off with the loot blending in with a gigantic crowd. Even a perfectly laid out plan can develop a few hitches and the one Tom and Joe concoct sees its share of unforeseen circumstances. Tom and Joe are going to have to sort out the mess while ensuring they get away with Patsy O'Neil's cash, and their lives.
If you look at the cover art for 'Cops and Robbers' you're bound to assume that this film is going to be some sort of early 70s wacky screwball comedy. While it's certainly that, it is also a straight up heist thriller in disguise. Most of the film is played as a setup leading to Tom and Joe to rip off the bonds with only a few gags where and there; not one would call a "laugh a minute" by any means. But once the heist is underway and things start to go wrong for the wayward police officers, the comedy slides out of neutral and 'Cops and Robbers' becomes a very amusing picture. The film as a whole trends towards being a suspense thriller, but so much of the suspenseful elements turn funny that it's hard not to appreciate the comedic timings of this picture.
Cliff Gorman and Joseph Bologna turn in great performances as the honest yet scheming police officers. So much of their performances are derived from the climate of the times as citizen trust in police was an all time low. The film works as an expose of sorts drawing some sympathy for these few honest officers and how they can be pushed to crime by a thankless public. While this is actually a relatively heavy theme and not exactly one that plays very loose and groovy, the film at least makes the concession that cops don't often make the smartest and therefor best of criminals. The real fun of this film comes from watching Tom and Joe narrowly escape absolute ruin and tragedy only to wind up in even deeper waters. Do they get away with it? I'm not going to tell you, but I will say that the 90 minutes it takes to find out is worth the time!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Cops and Robbers' makes its Blu-ray debut thanks to Kino Lorber's Studio Classics line. Pressed on a Region A locked BD25 disc and housed in a standard Blu-ray case, the disc opens directly to the main menu.
For a 42 year old film, 'Cops and Robbers' makes for a pretty decent Blu-ray presentation with this 1.85:1 1080p transfer. There area few age-related issues along the lines of tiny nicks and a couple scratches here and there, but over all the print is in pretty good shape considering its age and lack of full restoration effort. With a fine layer of film grain retained, detail is striking - it really stands out with Tom's many goofy looking disguises adding a little extra oomph to the visual comedy aspects of the film. The various New York landmarks also stand out wonderfully. Closeups and mediums look the best, while wides although softer-looking - get their fair share of detail dignity. Colors are pretty solid over all making the most out of the baby-blue police uniforms of the time. Flesh tones can look a tad pink at times, but not so bad as to knock the score. Black levels are pretty solid and offer some dimensional pop, but contrast seems to have been kicked up a notch or two making some scenes look a little too bright and flat. There is some slight jitter here and there - it's hardly noticeable, but I think it's worth mentioning just the same.
Sporting a solid DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track, 'Cops and Robbers' gets a lot of auditory life. Since this is a mono track spread over two channels, imaging isn't as strong as it could be with a natural stereo track, but over all it gets the job done. As a dialogue fronted movie, most of this track keeps to the midranges - even during the heist and climactic chase through Central Park. Levels are well balanced as the audio never gets too soft or too loud for its own good. Not an amazing track, but it does well enough for what this movie is.
Mug Shot: (HD 15:08) Actor Joseph Bologna sits down to discuss his career as a director, writer, and actor as well as working on the film. A nice little feature that could easily be longer and still be interesting.
Cops and Robbers Trailer: (HD 1:18) A solid trailer that sets up the premise nicely.
Bank Shot Trailer: (SD 2:44) Other than being by the same writer, it's odd that this trailer is on this disc.
Going into 'Cops and Robbers' I expected to see some sort of screwball comedy with forced hijinks that would get tiresome fast. I was happy to get a an amusing thriller with a sly sense of humor. At a breezy 90 minutes, the movie moves fast and leaves you entertained. With a decent A/V presentation and a decent extra feature, I'm calling this one as being at the very least worth a look. Give it a try and see if you're a fan.