Wednesday, October 13, 2010

THE CHOIRBOYS (1977) - Robert Aldrich

The Choirboys wants to be the M*A*S*H of cop movies. Instead, it's just mush, little more than a series of vignettes of cops pulling dumb pranks on each other while getting loaded on Olympia Beer in MacArthur Park. I'm guessing the filmmakers would have us believe that this is the blue boys' way of blowing off steam after rough and dangerous days working the L.A. streets. Except we never really see them bust anything rougher than the occasional showgirl/prostitute (pictured above) or break-up the odd black-Hispanic fist fight. M*A*S*H had the Korean War as context and backdrop for all of Hawkeye and the gang's goofing around. The Choirboys has a brief flashback to the Vietnam War and that's it, the narrative equivalent of unpaid parking tickets.

It's a shame because the movie boasts some major league talent-- James Woods, Louis Gossett, Jr., Charles Durning, Randy Quaid, Don Stroud and Burt Young. The director is Robert Aldrich, who gave us such classics as Kiss Me Deadly and The Dirty Dozen. The film is based on a novel by cop-author Joseph Wambaugh who penned the fine New Centurions a few years prior.

More shameful is the rampant homophobia that runs as an undercurrent throughout the film. Most of it is put in the mouth of a blatantly bigoted cop character named Roscoe Rules, and this is fine as it's in character and true to the time and, sadly, the vocation. But when a young gay teenager who's been innocently cruising MacArthur Park looking for date gets accidentally shot by one of the Boys, the movie itself seems to turn its head and shrug-- ah, no big deal. It moves on to more pranks and dick jokes.

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