The Super Cops is a police drama along the lines of Serpico, which was released a year earlier, with more emphasis on action and humor and less on retaliation within the police force. It’s an underappreciated, almost-forgotten gem that’s carried by the charismatic lead characters, played by Ron Leibman (now known as the voice of Ron Cadillac in the FX series Archer) and David Selby.
Leibman and Selbey play new cops Greenberg and Hantz who quickly tire of traffic duty and begin to solve crimes and bust crooks in their spare time. (No, really.) They accomplish this by thinking outside the rule book, in particular the one with the unwritten rules. They refuse to take bribes or grease palms. They receive assistance from convicted criminals. They stake out drug dealers in a giant cardboard box. All of this earns them some high profile busts and the enmity of pretty much every other cop in their precinct, particularly their new direct supervisor, Lt. O’Shaughnessy (Joseph Sirola).
I realize this sounds like what’s now a typical buddy-cop movie: a pair bucks the system to do what’s right. And it sort of is a progenitor to those films. But look here, this story, based on the book by L. H. Whittemore, was a bit more groundbreaking than all of those Lethal Weapon clones we’ve seen over the past two decades. The cops aren’t always good guys? They can make mistakes and have lapses in ethics? No one wants to see Greenburg and Hantz succeed, not nobody, not no how! But they do their best anyway, even if it means no advancement. They’ll work in a crappy precinct for a jerky boss, even on desk or traffic duty, and then work cases in their spare time. Their spare time! The other cops try hard to dissuade the dynamic duo – nicknamed Batman and Robin for their comic-book-like exploits – from messing around with their traditional system of not caring (particularly after the shift’s over). Meanwhile, Greenburg and Hantz just want to clean up one of New York’s worst crack-infested areas, The Man be damned. They’re crazy like foxes, is what they are. How crazy? They try to take down one baddie while the building they’re in is being demolished. Pretty awesome scene.
The Super Cops is available on DVD, finally. Seems the great Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) raved about this lost classic, and that somehow spurred the powers that be to release the movie to the public. So it’s out there, and it’s well worth your while.
The Super Cops: ***