Mafia and Harlem hoodlums join forces to find three small time crooks who commit murder during the robbery of Mafia money. Two cops (Yaphet Kotto and Anthony Quinn) team up to hunt down the crooks before the gangsters get to them...
This urban thriller was written by Luther Davis from a novel by Wally Ferrsi. It's often cited as one of the first blaxploitation movies, although it could also be described as an, er, "Italiansploitation" movie as well.
Very much in the seventies' style, Across 110th Street has handheld camerawork, location shooting and lots of background noise for that authentic, gritty, "street" atmosphere. All the characters seem constantly on the verge of explosive arguments, and there is much edgy acting from everyone involved.
Social conscience is the order of the day here. The cops are corrupt - Quinn's method of interrogation is to beat up his suspects - and crime is everywhere you look. Kotto is just about the only black guy on screen who isn't a criminal; he's educated and won't take bribes. Everyone is painfully aware of the racial tensions in the city (the black characters have posters of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali on their walls).
But the film tends to fall between the two stools of injustice and excitement. It also tries to fit in too many characters, so that the focus is lost. The mismatched cops routine between Kotto and Quinn comes across as pretty hackneyed now, and the scenes where the small time crooks have angst ridden conversations with each other and their girlfriends, while well-meaning, hold up the action.
And those action scenes are very good indeed, in fact the violent last half hour is well worth hanging around for (no pun intended). Also watch for: Burt Young getting shot at the start, and Antonio Fargas' new outfit (only he could get away with something like that). Listen for: songs by Bobby Womack, including the great title song as brought back into the public consciousness by Quentin Tarantino's title sequence to Jackie Brown.