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Customer Review

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Matthau and Dern at their best, April 9, 2005
This review is from: The Laughing Policeman (DVD)
There is absolutely nothing funny about "The Laughing Policeman", director Stuart Rosenberg's ultra-serious, ultra-violent police procedural/character study from 1974. Actually, that it's a hard-boiled police thriller is apparent five minutes in, when a lone gunman machine guns an entire city bus full of passengers to death and disappears into thin air. Enter foul-tempered homicide detective Lt. Jake Martin (Walter Matthau), whose anger intensifies when he realizes one of the victims is his off-duty partner. He's in even less of a good mood when he's paired with affable, sympathetic new partner Leo Larsen (Bruce Dern, in a rare "straight" role). The rest of the film follows their search for the killer, which leads them into some pretty unsavory places in and around San Francisco.

"The Laughing Policeman" isn't so much a police thriller as a procedural, and a very good one at that. There is very little action, and most of the tension comes from Martin and Larsen's prickly relationship. And gay viewers may be offended by where the crime ends up, as the San Francisco gay scene is shown in an extremely negative light. That said, there's something special to be found in any movie that relies on sheer acting from its lead and supporting cast, which includes Lou Gossett and Anthony Zerbe as fellow cops and Cathy Lee Crosby and Joanna Cassidy as two women who may have clues to whodunnit. And the last fifteen minutes are absolutely hair-raisingly suspenseful.

I'll say no more about this excellent thriller except to say that the DVD is presented in an excellent color transfer and in the proper 1:85:1 aspect ratio format, unlike the unfortunately botched release of Matthau's other stellar 1974 crime thriller "Charley Varrick", which is dumped onto DVD in a fullscreen transfer. Unfortunately, the only special feature is the original theatrical trailer, which is incredibly dated like most trailers of the era.

Thrill seekers may want to look elsewhere, but those in the mood for an intelligent, atmospheric thriller may find what they're looking for in "The Laughing Policeman".

**** (out of *****)
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Location: San Marcos, CA USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 19,183,130