Across 110th Street is a neo noir film from 1972, directed by Barry Shear. Shear mostly worked in television, but did a few feature films, this one being his most well-known film. The film is based on a book by Wally Ferris by the same name.
The film is a mash up of blaxploitation, hardboiled detective, and Mafia films into a neo noir stew. The film starts with a bold heist by three black men who rob the Mafia who is counting money in an upstairs apartment. The robbery goes wrong when one of the men starts firing his machine gun and kills everybody in the room. They get away with the money, but the getaway driver played by Antonio Fargas maybe the worst getaway driver in cinema history. This very slow and bad timed drive causes a few cops to end up dead.
This is the springboard for three crossing story lines. The first is our three thieves trying to get away with $300,000 of the Mafia’s money. The second is the two New York detectives who are trying to catch the thieves/cop killers. The third is the story of the Mafia trying to find the thieves and get their money back.
Anthony Quinn plays our veteran hardboiled detective, who is a bit of a racist. He is a throwback from a pre-1960’s era. This role was turned down by such big names as John Wayne, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. The lead detective is played by Yaphet Kotto, a black man working his way up the ladder with skill and hard work. The two have an interesting dynamic of respect, even though race gets in the way of that respect.
Anthony Franciosa plays the man the Mafia put in charge of finding the thieves and getting their money back. He is a very violent man who gets results.
This movie from the early 1970’s tackles topics that are still current today. The biggest one this film tackles is racism in the police force and the targeting of blacks. This film has language which may offend, and the violence is extreme, but both of these facts seem to make the film feel more real. This film feels like Quentin Tarantino went back in time and made it. In fact Tarantino used the Bobby Womack theme song from this film in his famous opening to Jackie Brown.
If you are a fan of gritty 1970’s films, or blaxploitation films from the era, you need to seek this film out.
Favorite Tidbit: Look for Burt Young in one of his early roles as one of the mobsters in the opening scene.