"When You Steal $300,00 From The Mob, It's Not Robbery. It's Suicide"
Although most often bunched in with the "black exploitation" genre of the 70's (MGM even released the DVD as part of their "Soul Cinema" series) , director Berry Shear's Across 110th Street from 1972 belongs more to the late 60's & 70's urban NYC crime dramas/cop movies such as The French Connection (1971), The Seven Ups (1973) and Serpico (1973). Sure there's big hats, multicolored velour jackets and Antonio Fargas, but at its core Across 110th Street is a really kick-butt 1970's cop/heist movie.
The story starts out with the robbery of a mob "bank" in Harlem (with an early Burt Young appearance) by three men which sets in motion two separate, but interconnected stories as both the mob and police attempt to hunt down the perpetrators. The police are lead by Capt. Mattelli (Anthony Quinn) as the salty old detective who prefers beating information out of suspects and Lt. Pope (Yaphrt Kotto - excellent here in an early role) as the young new breed guy who believes in all that pesky suspects rights stuff.
Anthony Franciosa as Nick D'Salvio heads up the bad guys. I've always liked Franciosa - he got a bad rep (undeserved or not) for being a pain-in-the-ass to directors and his career suffered as a result. Here he gives a truly violent/evil performance, sometimes over the top- but you know, that's what we would expect it to be. I like watching him here as he plays the young mob guy, who married into the family and hopes to use this situation to move up the ladder and has to prove he's a bad-ass to everybody (including himself).
The movie (with the exception of Kotto's character) presents the entire population of NYC as being corrupt with police, mafia and witnesses all either selling information back & forth or being violently forced to rat each other out. This all leads to the bloody shoot out climax with machine guns, exploding cars, burning mob guys and a rooftop chase (complete with a classic 70's downer ending) in the blasted out ruins of 1970's NYC. Sure, the editing is a bit choppy and some of the characters are kinda broadly drawn but all in all its a good solid story with all that great grimy & violent 70's atmosphere. In addition its got Anthony Franciosa tearing apart a brothel and beating tons of people up (complete with off screen castrations and crucifixions), various other bloody violence, lots of non PC dialogue and some naked prostitutes.
As mentioned Kotto is excellent and Quinn is well.... he's the always solid Anthony Quinn, but its Paul Benjamin (Escape From Alcatraz 1979 & Midnight Cowboy 1969) who's great here as the doomed leader of the heist guys. Plus you got the wonderful gravely voiced character actor Richard Ward as Doc Johnson (or as he refers to himself "Doc MOTHER FUCKIN' Johnson !"). Also with the above mentioned Antonio Fargas (Huggy Bear from Starsky & Hutch) and bunches of those 70's character faces. You also got a great score by J.J. Jackson & Bobby Womak with the classic title song being sung over the opening credits as the mob Cadillac cruises into Harlem.
The one sheet posters are bit weird as the one shown above pictures a bunch of guys who aren't even in the film (with the exception of the inserted Quinn photo), while the other one uses a picture which gives away the ending.