Pay to the Bearer – Rediscovering ‘Cops and Robbers’ (US 1973 – 89 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - October 19, 2015
Pay to the Bearer – Rediscovering ‘Cops and Robbers’ (US 1973 – 89 mins)

An overlooked caper from the busy 70’s, ‘Cops and Robbers’ may be a minor entry in the crime genre but it’s never boring, and the enthusiastic leads make it far more entertaining than it could have been.

Overworked and underpaid New York cops Tom and Joe (Cliff Gorman & Joseph Bologna) come up with a plan to steal $10 million in Bearer bonds, sell them to a local mobster (John P. Ryan), and then retire to a sunny climate. They choose the day of a ticker-tape parade to aide their diversion, while they successfully rob a Wall Street firm of their Bonds. Everything goes to plan until the day of the switch, where a rendezvous in bustling Central Park results in double-crossings and desperate getaways. Will Tom and Joe come out of it intact and, more importantly, with the life-changing loot?

Although you shouldn’t be on their side, you do find yourself rooting for the cops here, due mainly to the likable charm of the lead pair. Acclaimed stage actor Cliff Gorman was very good as Tom, and had an air of Al Pacino about him. Award-winning writer Joseph Bologna had an early acting role as Gorman’s more bitter partner Joe, constantly sweating and moaning about the unfairness of life. The acting honors though went to John P. Ryan as mob boss Patsy O’Neill, an arrogant hood who foolishly underestimates Tom and Joe. In his first sizable role, and fresh from a bit-part in ‘The Godfather’ (’72), Joe Spinell had a good supporting part as O’Neill’s number one flunkey Marty.

Director Aram Avakian followed this movie with ’11 Harrowhouse’ (’74), a more light-hearted caper where the central heist played a larger part of the plot. Donald Westlake wrote the screenplay which he adapted from his own 1972 novel, and the jazz and funk-enthused score was by Oscar-winning French composer Michel Legrand.

While there are no particularly noteworthy set-pieces, it’s consistently entertaining and has some nicely filmed car chase scenes. The final twenty minutes are both suspenseful and exciting, with Central Park an ideal location for the duo’s difficult getaway, as they nervously weave in an out of both the public and the pursuing hoods. There are a couple of scenes early on which show the frustration of the two cops at work, which I suppose helps the viewer understand what would drive the pair to turn to crime.

A fun little caper movie, ‘Cops and Robbers’ has some great performances, a witty script, and at just 89 minutes it never outstays its welcome. Made during an era of profanity-filled cop flicks, it’s rare to see such an enjoyable one that doesn’t need to rely on swearing and violence to entertain its audience. Oh, and the final wrap-up is very satisfying, leaving a wry smile on your face.

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