Cop Killers (1977) Review

Cop Killers Poster

Cop Killers is probably best remembered today for starring Jason Williams from Flesh Gordon, Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy and Brian Yunza’s Society. It’s also an early credit for makeup and effect genius Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, Videodrome). Is this enough to let it rise above the many other grindhouse crime films of the time?

Ray (Jason Williams) and Alex (Bill Osco, The Being, Night Patrol) have just scored 5 kilos of cocaine. They just have to deliver it to their buyer and they’ll be rich. The fact they drive an old Rolls Royce seems to indicate they already are rich, or maybe they traded it for a pound of goods. Things go wrong almost immediately as they run into a Border Patrol roadblock and have to shoot their way out, leaving four dead officers in their wake. Ditching the Rolls they steal an ice cream van, casually tossing the driver out on the freeway.

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Cop Killers was writer/director Walter R. Cichy’s only credit as a director, although he had previously written several porn films produced by Osco. And it’s pretty easy to see why he never directed again, he had no clue how to stage an action scene.

When Ray and Alex pull up to the roadblock the cops stand there waiting, guns drawn, while they grab their guns, jump out of the car and start shooting. A chase between the ice cream truck and a motorcycle cop is not only dull, it’s poorly thought out. After they repeatedly try to run him off the road, instead of calling for backup, the cop pulls up beside them and tells them to pull over. Needless to say that doesn’t end well for him.

Things don’t get any better after they kill a couple of bystanders and steal another car at a gas station. They spare its driver Karen (Diane Keller) but take her hostage. Arguably they get worse as the film starts to swing into drama territory, not that it wasn’t already too talky for an action film. Ray, the more psychotic of the pair tries to rape her to help himself relax. Alex stops him and, predictably, the two start to develop feelings for each other. This puts Alex at odds with Ray’s strict no witnesses policy.

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I was hoping Cop Killers would be the American equivalent of the Italian Poliziotteschi films of the time. But this is way too talky and slackly directed to compete with the likes of Violent Rome, The Violent Professionals or Contraband. The elements are all there but the execution falls short.

Despite the fact that every cop in Arizona must be looking for them there’s never any sense of urgency or danger. And their connection seems to be equally unconcerned, still willing to have them come to his place to make the deal. If the characters aren’t worried, why should we be? Unfortunately, there’s no central detective out to catch them, just random cops who cross their paths. Not having that conflict takes a lot away from the film.

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Williams is good as the deranged Ray, but Osco shows why he was a lot more prolific as a producer than an actor. His performance is about on par with the film’s direction. The only other major player in the film, Keller, is nice to look at but it’s not surprising this was her only credit as she can’t act.

Baker’s effects are nicely bloody with a couple of nasty wounds thrown in for good measure, but overall Cop Killers is light on violence. And, surprisingly for a grindhouse film made by and with folk from the porn industry, there’s little skin in it either. It’s all disappointingly weak and tame. Even the ending, which was supposed to be cynical and shocking falls flat.

Cop Killers has been issued on DVD and Blu Ray several times over the years by the likes of Code Red and Media Blasters. It’s currently available to stream on several platforms including Tubi.

Our Score

Jim Morazzini

Movie buff, gym rat and crazy cat guy

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