Across 110th Street is an intense, nasty, hard-boiled heist film that from its opening moments to its final freeze frame finish never lets up. The pacing furious and deadly. Shot on location, mostly in Harlem, this film is too easily characterized as just another blaxploitation film; it’s not, this is a top-notch crime film that is a must-see for crime film connoisseurs.
The film opens with three local Harlem thieves led by Jim Harris (Paul Benjamin) decide it’s a good idea to steal $300,000 of mob money. In the process what is supposed to be just a robbery turns brutally bloody with both Harlem and Mafia hoods shot and killed. During the escape, the three thieves additionally kill a couple of cops to make their situation worse.
The police investigation is led by aging racist cop Captain Matelli (Anthony Quinn) and the younger Lt. Pope (Yaphet Kotto). Pope is placed in charge which only irks Matelli even more. Matelli is an ‘old school’ cop who believes in beating the hell out of a suspect to get an admission of guilt while Pope, college-educated represents the future. The Mafia are led by psychotic Mafia tough Nick DiSalvo (Anthony Franciosa), and the Black gangsters are headed up by Doc Johnson (Richard Ward). Like the two police officers, DiSalvo and Doc have an unfriendly alliance. For years the Italian Mafia ran the organized crime beat in Harlem. But now it’s the 1970’s, and the black hoodlums resent the outside, racist Mafia boys running things with them as lowly surrogates. Though they work together, this vibe is clearly visible throughout the film. The one things all sides have in common is they want the killers though not for the same reasons.
The film is not for the squeamish, blood splatters throughout and most of the characters are not likable whether black or white. That said, crime film lovers will not be bored.
Keep an eye out for a lot of familiar faces in small roles, including Burt Young, one of the victims in the opening massacre, Antonio Fargas, the getaway driver, Gloria Hendry, and George DiCenzo. Bobby Womack wrote and sang the memorable title song.