Featuring George Peppard in the sort of maverick-cop role one normally associates with Clint Eastwood, Newman’s Law delivers an adequate dosage of mid-’70s crime-and-punishment melodrama, hitting all the usual notes of corruption, double-crosses, and rugged individualism. Working with a director and writer culled from the creative ranks of his short-lived TV show Banacek, Peppard renders typically bland work, though he’s quite believable when conveying the nastier aspects of a character; few actors channel icy cruelty quite as smoothly as Peppard. Newman’s Law benefits from extensive location photography and slick production values, so even though the picture comes across very much like an extended episode of a cop show, it’s a got that pleasing feature-film sheen. What it doesn’t have is a fresh or interesting story. Instead, writer Anthony Wilson churns through a familiar cycle in which our tough-guy hero, Detective Sergeant Vince Newman (Peppard), gets caught in a conspiracy wrought by crooked cops and nefarious drug dealers. Vince also wrestles with troubles in his private life, such as the rising costs of keeping his deteriorating father in a nursing home.
Nonetheless, fans of ’70s cop cinema will have an easy time digesting Newman’s Law, which has just enough in the way of chases and fights and shootouts to satisfy undiscerning palates. What’s more, a couple of scenes are relatively vivid. In one, Peppard climbs atop a water tower and points a sniper rifle at a criminal’s hilltop mansion—themes of police driven to “righteous” illegality by the restrictions of the legal system are always inherently interesting. Another choice bit features Peppard questioning a stripper (played by nubile B-movie stalwart Pat Anderson) while she gives a private performance. Although forgettable and lurid on its own merits, the scene parallels a sexy vignette in the 1986 John Frankenheimer thriller 52 Pick-Up, which was penned by the great Elmore Leonard. Did Leonard see Newman’s Law and later mimic one of its scenes? In any event, Newman’s Law generates a sufficient degree of low-ebb excitement, in fits and starts, to get the no-nonsense job done. Plus, it’s got Abe Vigoda as a courtly gangster, so there’s that.
Newman’s Law: FUNKY