Lt. Terrence Sneed (Billy Dee Williams), a tough and suave cop from San Francisco, is sent to New Mexico to help Police Chief Berrigan (Eddie Albert) take down the local crime syndicate. No sooner has Sneed arrived in town than he’s helping to prevent a prison break and killing gangsters. Berrigan is impressed and explains to Sneed that the local crime boss is Victor Manso (Vic Morrow). Even though everyone knows that Manso is crooked, the police haven’t ever been able to put together a case that will stand up in court. Maybe Sneed is the man who can do it.
What Berrigan doesn’t know is that Sneed is a crooked cop, himself. As soon as Sneed leaves his meeting with Berrigan, he goes over to Manso’s office and collects his money. Manso assigns Sneed to work with another crooked cop, Captain Dollek (Albert Salmi). However, it turns out that Sneed has plans of his own. While still on Manso’s payroll, Sneed starts to put together a case that might finally take Manso down.
The Take is full of good actors in small roles. If you have ever wanted to see Billy Dee Williams share a scene with Frankie Avalon, The Take is the film for you. Avalon plays Danny James, a small-time hood who is arrested and interrogated by Sneed. At first, Danny is cocky and arrogant but, as soon as Sneed removes his jacket and his watch and makes a fist, Danny starts crying and begging Sneed not to beat him. Danny is soon turned into an informant and then disappears from the movie. The beautiful model Kathirine Baumann plays Danny’s girlfriend. While only wearing a towel, she gives Capt. Dollek the finger and looks amazing doing it. Sorrell Brooke, who later found fame as Boss Hogg on The Dukes of Hazzard, also has a few good scenes as Sneed’s deceptively respectable money launderer.
The Take can be a confusing film to watch because it’s never firmly established just how corrupt Sneed actually is. Sometimes, Sneed just seems like he’s trying to make a little extra money and then, other times, he comes across as being a full-blown gangster. Despite being on Manso’s payroll, Sneed seems to be determined to take him down and the film never makes clear why. Billy Dee Williams is his usual supremely cool self but he seems almost too cool to play a morally ambivalent cop. More impressive are Vic Morrow and Eddie Albert, who both shamelessly chew the scenery as two leaders on opposite sides of the law.
The Take is often mistakenly referred to as being a blaxploitation film but it’s really just a cop film with a lead actor who happens to be black. Unlike the best blaxploitation films, there’s no political subtext to be found in the movie. Sneed could just as easily be a corrupt white detective and, with the exception of one throwaway line, race is never mentioned. While this is a minor cop film, it features a few good action scenes and, again, it’s your only chance to see two very different pop cultural icons, Billy Dee Williams and Frankie Avalon, acting opposite of each other. That’s not a bad pay-off for 91 minutes of your life.