Across 110th Street (1972): Barry Shear’s Crime Thriller, Starring Anthony Quinn and Anthony Franciosa

One of the most brutally violent actioners of the early 1970s, Barry Shear’s Across 110th Street is a fast-paced crime thriller, which benefits from authentic look based on on-location shooting.

Grade: B (**1/2* out of *****)

Luther Davis’s functional scenario, based on the novel by Wally Ferris, begins when three Harlem homeboys, all disguised as police officers, knock off a Mafia-controlled policy bank in Harlem, aiming to steal $300,000.
The robbery goes wrong, resulting in the deaths of seven men, three black gangsters, two Mafia members, and two police officers.
Lieutenant William Pope, a strait-laced black police officer, is assigned to the case with the aging Captain Frank Mattelli, a street-wise, racist Italian-American cop.

Lieutenant Pope, who goes by the book, struggles to restrain Mattelli, a shifty and greedy detective, who receives money from Doc Johnson, the leader of black organized crime.  “Are you a cop or a social worker?” Mattelli asks Pope, when challenged about his cruel methods.

Over the course of roughly 24 hours, Pope and Mattelli race to get to the criminals before they can be hunted down by the Mafia, which is also searching for them.

The Italians are led by Nick DiSalvio, a sadistic mob enfiorcer who takes pleasure in torturing his victims.

Largely set in Harlem, the film takes its name from 110th Street, the dividing line between Harlem and Central Park, which functioned as informal boundary of race and class in 1970s New York City.
In a crucial scene in the film, Jim Harris explains to his girlfriend his motives to engage in robbery. As a middle-aged black man, already incarcerated, with a health problem and no formal education or skills, his only options are to work a demeaning, low-paying job or to turn to crime.
Mattelli also justifies accepting bribes as a way to supplement his meager wage as a police officer.

Focusing on a heist, murder and subsequent investigation, Across 110th Street is inspired by the blaxploitation films of the 1970s.

The soundtrack features a classic song of the same name by soul artist Bobby Womack.

Over the years, this violent action-thriller, made a year after the Oscar winning The French Connection, has become sort of a cult favorite.
Quinn (also credited as producer) has one of his strongest roles in the later phase of his career, playing a man torn between his loyalty to authority and fear of the Mafia.  Initially, the role was offered to John Wayne and Burt Lancaster, who both turned it down.

Cast
Anthony Quinn as Capt. Mattelli
Yaphet Kotto as Lt. Pope
Anthony Franciosa as Nick D’Salvio
Paul Benjamin as Jim Harris
Ed Bernard as Joe Logart
Richard Ward as Doc Johnson
Antonio Fargas as Henry J. Jackson
Norma Donaldson as Gloria Roberts
Gilbert Lewis as Shevvy
Marlene Warfield as Mrs. Jackson
Nat Polen as Lt. Reilly
Tim O’Connor as Lt. Hartnett
Burt Young as Lapides
Charles McGregor as Chink
Paul Harris as Mr. C.

Credits:

Directed by Barry Shear
Produced by Anthony Quinn, Fouad Said, Barry Shear
Written by Luther Davis, based onAcross 110th by Wally Ferris
Music by Bobby Womack, J. J. Johnson
Production company: Film Guarantors
Distributed by United Artists
Release date: December 19, 1972
Running time: 102 minutes