Part buddy cop movie, part let’s fight police corruption movie, The Super Cops works pretty well as at least light entertainment. This is definitely one time where you should think Starsky and Hutch much more than say Serpico or even Lethal Weapon.
The setting is early 70s New York, and newly minted NYPD officers Dave Greenberg and Robert Hantz are eager to move beyond the day-to-day low level duties (such as directing traffic) that they are given, so they decide to spend their off-duty time making drug busts and attempting to get the attention of their superiors so that they can quickly make their way up to detective.
They definitely get attention, but it’s not really the kind they want, as the real detectives on the force feel like the pair are trying to make them look bad, and they are eventually investigated by Internal Affairs who assume that they must be somehow corrupt.
Eventually they are assigned to the (fictional) 21st precinct in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Appalled by what they see there, they make it their mission to try to clean up the neighborhood and do what they can to get as much of the drugs off the streets and to bust the Hayes brothers who are the major drug suppliers in the neighborhood. Though they are secretly supported by their captain who wants the to make the busts so that they can get their detective badges and he can, as he says “ride their shirt tails” out of the precinct, this only further infuriates those who oppose them, including among others, a corrupt District Attorney.
Based on the true story of two real-life detectives, The Super Cops, directed by Gordon Parks (who also directed the seminal blaxplitation movie Shaft) from a script by Lorenzo Semple Jr. (who helped develop the Batman television show) does itself a favor by never seeming to take itself quite too seriously. Though it’s not a comedy, and the subject matter is serious, there is a light touch to the movie that keeps it rollicking along at such a breakneck pace that at least for me it seemed much shorter than it’s running time of 90 minutes.
One thing that definitely helps keep the movie light and mving are the performances by leads Ron Liebman and David Selby who portray the pair as competent though frequently awkward, so that they always seem just slightly out of place both in social settings and while chasing down bad guys. Also of note in the cast is Pat Hingle who plays the IAD inspector charged with bringing them down. Hingle would later go on to portray Police Commissioner Gordon in Tim Burton’s Batman films.
As far as historical accuracy goes, I suspect that it’s best not to really question it, especially considering the later careers and corruption charges eventually brought against the real cops upon whom the movie pair are based.
I suspect that your reaction to The Super Cops will really depend on just how much you’re into this kind of movie. If you’re looking for a film where things are always exploding and everything is a matter of life or death and the end of the world could come at any moment then this is not going to be for you. If on the other hand, you’re just looking to some light buddy cop entertainment, and especially if you’re a fan of that late 60s early 70s New York setting like I am, then you could certainly do worse.
I couldn’t find a really good trailer for the movie to embed, but here’s a short clip to give you a feel for it: