This London-set drama is as much an Up the Junction-style slice of young lowlife as it is an on-the-beat crime movie – though, like almost all British cops ‘n’ robbers films, it ends with a botched heist.
In working-class Battersea, uniformed PC Joe (Martin Potter) finishes his shift by running down a wide-boy pilferer (pre-stardom Robin Askwith) and hauling him down the nick for lifting stuff from cars. Glum Joe is married to Peg (Wendy Allnutt) and lives with her and their baby in a block of flats near the railways – so he can’t get any sleep on a morning squeezed between a long night shift and afternoon duty getting battered protecting an embassy from an out-for-aggro demo crowd who show up with bricks ready to be thrown at the thin blue line. At an engagement party, Joe meets blonde Sue (Julia Foster), who lives with her blowsy Mum (Sandra Dorne) and has to avoid the pawing of Mum’s boyfriend (Glynn Edwards). Sue also attracts Barry (Nicky Henson), a fluffy-haired crook who is casing a cigarette warehouse for a blag and drives a flash, clunky old car. The trio play truant from the party, and Joe sleeps with Sue, then backs off. Only after Joe has given a drunk (Michael Balfour, playing his entire role unconscious) the kiss of life in a pub does Barry find out his new mate is a copper and Sue learns he’s married – whereupon she hooks up with the single bloke she knows is a wrong ‘un and even agrees to drive him to and from his big crime.
Barry and Joe have uncomfortable spells at work on either side of the law: Joe gets a thumping at the demo (‘what are this lot against?’ ‘everything’) and Barry is put in his place by a slimy receiver of stolen goods (Ian Hendry, in sweatily creepy, patronising form) and his menacing, flirty boyfriend (David Baxter). The finale isn’t happy for anyone, though the brutal finish also leaves their fates up in the air. The three leads are all good in thinly-written, archetypal’roles (no surnames), and Foster is a bit better than she needs be, almost selling the weird stretches which segue from a thuggish Dixon of Dock Green knock-off into a Battersea Jules et Jim. It’s blunt about attitudes to the police – noting the bar staff who don’t really like having a PC in and the boozers who won’t talk to Joe, only to turn round and depend on him in a crisis, and the doctor who complains about being called out on a weekend until he sees Joe in uniform and turns unctuously solicitous. It’d be more convincing if at least one or two of the coppers at the well-directed violent demo were shown to be as eager to get the boot (and the truncheon) in as the long-haired protesters.
Scripted by Allan Prior and directed by Sidney Hayers, this has an interesting premise in the way both cop and crook are semi-estranged from their older peers and genuinely have a lot in common, though Joe and Barry are both shallow, self-involved and undependable, straining Sue’s stated ‘no more bastards’ policy. Now, it’s of interest for the gruesome ‘70s fashions (and Henson’s truly terrible haircut) and the social milieu – ten years on from the black and white, drab miserablism of the kitchen sink school, the streets are garish but cheap and the freedoms that seemed to be promised have receded. As often, the character who gets short shrift is the young-wife-and-mum-as-millstone – Allnutt’s weedy, nagging drag less sympathetic treatment than the three much more objectionable characters. It has a good, funkily grating score by Carry On stalwart Eric Rogers; a cast of recognisable British faces runs to David Essex, Norman Jones, Eddie Byrne, Queenie Watts, Ellis Dale and Marianne Stone.