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  Robbery Picked Up By The Fuzz
Year: 1967
Director: Peter Yates
Stars: Stanley Baker, Joanna Pettet, James Booth, Frank Finlay, Barry Foster, William Marlowe, Clinton Greyn, George Sewell, Glynn Edwards, Michael McStay, Martin Wyldeck, Rachel Herbert, Patrick Jordon, Barry Stanton, Kenneth Farrington, Robert Russell
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Two men in a stolen ambulance wait for a car to pull up on a busy London street, and when it does, another man places a device inside the car while its passenger and driver are inside a building collecting a case containing valuable jewels. On their return, the car pulls away and the amublance follows at a wary distance until the device's timer is set off and releases knockout gas, sending both those inside unconscious and crashing into a barrier. Presently, as the police try to deal with the situation, the ambulance arrives and removes the passenger with the case handcuffed to his wrist, then whisks him away...

There then follows one of the finest car chases in British film history, and the one which took its director Peter Yates to Hollywood at Steve McQueen's request to direct Bullitt. The keywords to Robbery, which Yates co-wrote, are "ruthless efficiency", and that's how the crimes depicted in the film pan out, but unfortunately for the criminals that's how the police operate as well. That car chase may be the highlight of the film for some, which may lead you to judge the rest of the film to be something of an anti-climax following it, but there are compensations.

These can be identified by the presence of the mastermind behind the robberies, and he is Paul Clifton. Clifton was played by Stanley Baker, one of the great British screen tough guys who still commands a considerable cult of enthusiasts and he is at somewhere near his best here: capable, no-nonsense and not someone you would want to mess with. Once the opening felony is out of the way, Clifton sets his next plan in motion, and it is one which must have appeared particularly familiar to British audiences of the day.

This is down to it being based upon the then-recent Great Train Robbery which had obsessed the nation for a while, mainly due to its audacity and the fact that it might have brought grudging admiration if a driver had not been seriously injured in an attack during the incident. If you are not aware of all this then you can still appreciate Robbery, as for a crime caper with some degree of grit it impresses. The operation is not carried out in a vacuum, as the cops are highly suspicious and know, though cannot prove, that Clifton and his men were behind the jewel theft.

This increases the pressure on the criminals, but this is not one of those capers where you want the thieves to get away with it, although you are intrigued to watch how they will put their schemes into action. A roster of reliable UK thesps act tough to back Baker up, so the atmosphere is realistic and gripping, and with James Booth putting in a sterling performance of sly tenacity as the lead Inspector on the case, the good guys are as well represented as the bad guys. With such a businesslike affair there's not much room for humour, and a token Joanna Pettet as Clifton's wife doesn't get much to do, but for those who like police procedurals Robbery is just the thing to get caught up in. Music by Johnny Keating.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Peter Yates  (1929 - 2011)

British director with some range, originally from theatre and television. After Summer Holiday and Robbery, he moved to Hollywood to direct Bullitt, with its car chase making waves. There followed The Hot Rock, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Mother, Jugs & Speed, The Deep and touching teen drama Breaking Away before he returned to Britain for the fantasy Krull and The Dresser. Spent most of his final years working back in America.

 
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