In the go-for-broke 1974 action thriller The Super Cops, Ron Liebman and David Selby patrol a dirty, scuzzy, long-lost Brooklyn that’s literally falling apart: one thrilling setpiece finds the cops pursuing suspects through a building in the process of being torn apart by a giant wrecking ball. Liebman and Selby play David Greenberg and Robert Hantz, two real-life cops whose larger-than-life exploits won them the nicknames “Batman & Robin.” Like the crime-fighting duo who lent Greenberg and Hantz their nicknames, the title characters have a tense, complicated relationship with a law-enforcement establishment they view as a hindrance at best and a Kafkaesque nightmare at worst.
Liebman and Selby play rookie patrolman who bond instantly over a dedication to their job that borders on insanity. They’re clean cops in a dirty district who discover they have as much to fear from the cops in their own department as the drug dealers and mobsters who run the streets. For Liebman and Selby, tracking down criminals is as much about the thrill of the hunt as it is about serving the public good; they’re unabashed thrill-seekers in a job that provides them with constant jolts of adrenaline.
In a buddy-cop subgenre dominated by mismatched duos, The Super Cops centers on a perfectly matched pair. Liebman and Selby don’t just understand each other intuitively, they feed into each other’s violent, aggressive pathologies. For them, being a cop isn’t a job, it’s an existential identity they can’t shake just because they’re out of uniform or off-duty, or even if it’s professionally advantageous to keep a low profile. Director Gordon Parks brings to the proceedings the street-level verisimilitude, offbeat humor, and funky atmospherics he lent to Shaft. In tone and vibe, The Super Cops has as much in common with blaxploitation movies as with police procedurals. A personal favorite of Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright, who has singled it out as a lost gem, the film is a vibrant, colorful, consistently entertaining look back at a city out of control and two wild-eyed lunatics crazy enough to think they can tame it.
Key features: A trailer.