When Kirkland (George Kennedy) appoints veteran cop Jake Quinn (Ed Asner) to command a division of the Massachusetts Metropolitan Police, one of Quinn’s main duties is to root out corruption. Everyone knows that Captain Jerry Clemente (Ray Sharkey) is crooked but no one’s been able to prove anything. This has led to Clemente getting so cocky that he tries to pull off the biggest bank robbery of all time. Working with two other corrupt cops (played by Steve Railsback and James Keach) and some ex-cons who owe him a favor, Clemente masterminds the theft of $25,000,000 worth of jewelry.
Unfortunately, stealing that much brings in not only the FBI but it also makes Quinn even more determined to expose Clemente and all of his crooked associates. As well, the Mafia wants their part of the action and the members of Celemente’s gang aren’t as smart as their leader. Soon the walls are closing in. Will Clemente get away with his crime or will he end up getting arrested and eventually writing a book about the theft that will eventually be turned into a television movie?
Though the title seems more appropriate for a comedy, The Cops Are Robbers is a drama based on a true story. It actually could have used some comedy because the movie itself is pretty dry and straight forward. Ed Asner and George Kennedy give their usual competent performances, cast as the type of characters that they could have played in their sleep. Unfortunately, Ray Sharkey is nowhere near as effective as the man they’re trying to put behind bars. When he first started out, Sharkey made a name for himself by giving convincing performances as characters who were tough and streetwise but also sometimes neurotic. He received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations before he became better known for his trips to rehab than his acting ability. I think that. as an actor, Sharkey’s downfall was that he saw himself compared to Al Pacino so many times that he started to buy it and he eventyally started to attack every role with the same method-style intensity. Sometimes, like when he played Sonny Steelgrave during the first season of Wiseguy, it worked. Most of the time, though, it just led to him overacting and bellowing all of his lines. That’s the case with The Cops Are Robbers. Sharkey is so loud and perpetually angry that it’s hard to believe that he’s managed to get away with his crimes for as long as he has.
For those of us who don’t live in Massachusetts, the most interesting thing about watching The Cops Are Robbers is trying to keep track of who works for what agency. When it was mentioned that Clemente works for the Metropolitan Police, I immediately assumed that meant he was a Boston police officer. Only later did I learn, via a review on the imdb, that the Metropolitan Police were actually a state agency. That Clemente was a state official and not just a city cop does make his crimes slightly more interesting, though not enough to really liven up The Cops Are Robbers.