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  Super Cops, The Cleaning Up The Neighbourhood
Year: 1974
Director: Gordon Parks
Stars: Ron Liebman, David Selby, Sheila Frazier, Pat Hingle, Dan Frazer, Joseph Sirola, Arny Freeman, Bernard Cates, Alex Colon, Charles Turner, Ralph Wilcox, Al Fann, David Greenberg, Robert Hantz, Norman Bush, Arthur French, Tamu Blackwell, Hector Troy
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: When David Greenberg (Ron Liebman) and Robert Hantz (David Selby) joined the police academy in New York they had big ambitions of how they wished to fight crime, but were soon to find their enthusiasm was not always welcomed by the powers that be. In the training they already proved themselves willing to rock the boat as they decided they wanted to team up to get the criminals off the streets, to the extent that they went on their own private jaunts to arrest the drug dealers who were making life hell for so many...

But not everyone was happy about their behaviour, not only the crooks as you might have imagined but their fellow cops as well. Greenberg and Hantz were real life policemen who were nicknamed Batman and Robin, so when it came to bringing their tale to the big screen the producers evidently had a sense of humour when they hired Lorenzo Semple Jr to adapt the book of the cops' exploits, for he had been one of the most prolfic writers for the Batman series in the previous decade. Possibly due to that the film operated as something of a comedy as well, though there were dramatic moments, making for an interesting mix of true life yarn and outright aiming for the funny bone.

The Super Cops re-entered the experience of the average film buff when Edgar Wright championed it as an influence on his spoof Hot Fuzz, and if it was not quite as funny as his efforts there were definitely a few parallels you could draw between the two, with Liebman playing the capable mentor to Selby's ready, willing and able partner, though there was less emphasis on humorous gay references, obviously: the real Greenberg and Hantz were happily married. It was worth rediscovering, too, if rather in the shadow of the movies which would act as its more blatant inspirations, The French Connection and Serpico, neither of which went for the wryly amusing tone as much as this did.

This was on a lower budget too, so don't expect the car chase to make an appearance, though there was an impressive pursuit through a building which is being demolished by a wrecking ball late on in the story which made up for much of this consisting of conversations peppered with arrests. One reason we find ourselves backing the two heroes all the way is not simply down to them being so upright and noble in the corrupt surroundings they are working in, but because their straightforward sense of right and wrong make things far easier to understand than the ins and outs of the legal complications which dog them from one end of the movie to the other; good luck fathoming who wants to take them down.

Well, the gangs ruining lives with heroin want to see them wiped from the force, but the bent coppers inside that organisation want them out of the way as well, leading to many conniving schemes to frame the boys when it is they who are actually on the side of justice. To make sure we didn't think they were racists when so many of the bad guys outside the law were black, Greenberg got a love interest in the form of Sheila Frazier's prostitute, though by the end it's more the police corruption which comes across as a hindrance - weirdly the dealers have more integrity even though they're responsible for exploiting a community. It would be nice to say Greenberg and Hantz went on to scale the heights of justice, but both had trouble with the law after this, Greenberg serving time in jail and Hantz busted for marijuana (he said he was framed). Better to remember them here, where they actually appear, and as one of the better movies Gordon Parks directed after his megahit Shaft. Music by Jerry Fielding.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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