What movie was that...?

09 June 2011

Across 110th Street

directed by Barry Shear

I was having an argument the other day with some arthouse film snob with a fetish for subtitles about the staggering acting merit of Yaphet Kotto, and when it came time for me to drop the bomb, so to speak, and enumerate his classic works, I found myself stuck. Yaphet Kotto is a phenomenal actor, no question, but the problem is that he wasn’t in a lot of phenomenal films. Sure, there was Alien, but another stellar example of Kotto (and everyone else, really) at the top of their game is Barry Shear’s gangster classic, Across 110th Street. This gritty tale of racial hostility, hard boiled altruism and the kind of take what you need ethos of the criminal underworld boils over with emotion and fuck you anger, not to mention some incredible action sequences, incredible acting and incredible directing. Whether or not the steady cam work in this film was done out of artistic license or due to necessity, it serves the film tremendously, creating realistic sequences that many blockbusters with morbidly obese budgets try to duplicate today, and Shear has a knack for finding the core of the scene without having to explain it. One of my favorite sequences in the film is when the Mob finds out one of their Harlem cash houses have been knocked over, and the men move throughout a family party trying to deal with the next step. Yaphet Kotto is dynamite as new cop on the block Lieutenant Pope, struggling to enforce law and order in the wake of the 3 decade path of sketchy police work done by Captain Matelli, played with gusto by a reliable Anthony Quinn. Most amazing minor role achievement award for this film goes to Marlene Warfield, who is astounding as Mrs. Jackson. She only has one scene, and it’s a killer. Bobby Womack’s opening song is as great as it gets, and it’s a shame that more people haven’t watched this gem from the 70s.

Note: It never hurts to have Burt Young in your film, either. Even if he doesn't have any lines and dies in the first scene.


  1. I'm one of the people who hasn't seem across 110th street but I did like Kotto in Live And Let Die!

  2. Live and Let Die was anther great Kotto performance, for sure. I think my review for tomorrow is going to be a Bronson film. What do you think: The Mechanic, or Mr. Majestyk?

  3. By the way, Paul, I have noticed that new blog entries have been appearing on OTRA, but when I try to click on the link, I can't find the blog. Am I doing something wrong?

  4. You're not doing anything wrong B, I've been dabbling with On The Road Again but I'm lacking confidence. So for now it's still in cold storage.
    As for Bronson I like both but Majestyk is a particular favourite and I'd love to hear what you think of it.
    "Hey buddy you want my opinion you're in the wrong business".

  5. Don't fret, Paul. Your blog is high quality, and I love hearing what you have to say. I especially love that not only have you watched a lot of the same "off the beaten path" gems that I have, you love them as much as I do!

  6. Good film, this, but a bit dated. I'm happy you give Burt Young a namecheck - I swear, that guy was born with a five o'clock shadow and a chewed cigar hanging out his mouth.


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