Freebie and the Bean (1974)
For this loud cop film in the buddy buddy genre we are treated to the off beat pairing of James Caan and Alan Arkin.
Richard Rush of The Stunt Man fame directed this film which must have served as a template to the car crashes that John Landis featured to death in The Blues Brothers. Our pair of cops are out to nail a numbers runner played by Jack Kruschen. To get him they’ll spend the better part of fourteen months sifting through his garbage on a nightly basis till something finally turns up.
Though the evidence is flimsy they attempt to arrest their man after learning from thug Paul Koslo (whom they beat the hell out of) that there is a contract out on their man. A hitman has been deployed out of Detroit to put Kruschen to sleep.
Alex Rocco laughs the arrest out of his D.A’s office and tells Caan and Arkin that their new assignment is to keep their man alive long enough to put him away in proper legal fashion. This creates the unlikely situation where our officers of the law turn body guards and bust up anyone that looks even slightly alarming. It also allows the script to inject some of the loud humor that the film attempts to bring to the screen. I say loud because it seems that Arkin practically screams most of his lines. Either at Caan or his wife Valerie Harper whom he suspects of carrying on an adulterous affair with a neighbor down the street.
Caan seems to enjoy the power that the badge gives him and though one wouldn’t say he’s dirty he plainly takes advantage of free booze and fancy clothes thrown his way when he attempts to play tough with store owners.
Needless to say just when things appear to be calming down after taking out the threats presented to Kruschen the final chase is about to occur when our mark is taken hostage at gunpoint. This leads to a chase during the superbowl that ends in a violent shootout that is rather poorly edited between one of our leading men and a surprising suspect.
I’m not sure why but I have always thought this was supposed to be a fondly recalled film from the mid seventies. This was my first viewing and though I have nothing against it, i don’t see anything that memorable about it. Perhaps it hasn’t aged well.
Caan and Arkin are two actors I have generally liked over the years and it’s Arkin who has really grown on me over the past decade with his solid work. As a kid Arkin was “just that other guy who tried to play Clouseau”. He was instantly on my don’t like list. Then I caught him in a rebroadcast of The Defection of Simas Kudirka and I realized what I had been missing.
Appearing here in a rather thankless role is Loretta Swit despite being billed third. One has to wonder if the majority of her role wound up on the cutting room floor. Then again perhaps her billing had something to do with the popularity of Mash at the time.
After all is said and done I really did like the closing scene to make it worth the effort of finally catching up with this action cop film bent towards the comedy routines that would become standard fare once Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte took to a 48 hour case in 1982.
This was added to my shelf thanks to it’s Warner Archive release.