The 87th Precinct was a popular 'police procedural' series, written by Evan Hunter under the pseudonym of Ed McBain. The concept was that the series starred the detectives of the precinct, not a single character. In fact, the author would sue Hill Street Blues for stealing his concept (unsuccessfully).
Over the decades, there were many attempts to bring these novels to the big screen or to TV. This TV movie from 1996 was yet another attempt, and was good enough to generate a sequel.
Like the novels, the movie gives us several subplots going on at the same time, involving a variety of detectives.
Detectives Steve Carella (Dale Midkiff – Pet Sematery) and Meyer Meyer (Joe Pantoliano – Matrix) are investigating the murder of a showgirl… but the same gun is soon linked to the murder of a pimp and a jeweler! Andrea Ferrell plays Carella's wife Teddy (both Teddy and Andrea are deaf).
Ambitious detective Eileen Burke (Andrea Parker) puts herself in harm's way to stop a laundromat thief with a perversion.
Brooding detective Bert Kling (Paul Johansson) needs help from the ex-wife who betrayed him to get inside information about the theater world.
Michael Gross (Family Ties) plays Lieutenant Byrnes, the 'no nonsense' precinct boss.
There's an excellent supporting cast, playing the dead pimp's prostitute, a creepy man of religion, a fat woman with a knife, a woman who gives birth in the police station, and a pair of medical students.
The movie is given a touch of class with some jazzy background music and fancy camera work ('snaking down the hallway').
One wonders if this might have been intended as the pilot for a potential TV series.
One problem is that the movie seems crammed into 93 minutes, and tries to introduce all of the 87th Precinct detectives (fun for fans of the novels, but confusing for viewers).
Nevertheless, it's a pretty good movie, fast paced, interesting plots, sympathetic characters, and sinister villains.
Dale Midkiff is pretty solid as Carella; Andrea Parker sizzles in her tough girl role; Paul Johansson is suitably moody as Bert Kling. Everyone else is at least adequate.
I'd like to get the entire set of detectives in 28mm and some of the supporting characters would be useful too (the knife woman could work in any horror game!).
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .