Driving relentlessly to make points that are almost pointless, Fort Apache The Bronx is a very patchy picture, strong on dialog and acting and exceedingly weak on story.
Even while shooting, Apache drew protests from neighborhood factions claiming it would show only the bad about the Bronx and ignore the good. Because of that, the pic starts with a tip-of-the-hat title card to the ‘law abiding’ citizens of the community. But that’s the last to be seen of them.
Title is taken from the nickname for a real police station uptown, literally surrounded and often under siege from thieves, murderers, hookers, junkies, dealers.
One of the cops (Danny Aiello) is a murderer himself and even the heroes (Paul Newman and Ken Wahl) aren’t all that admirable in their feeble attempts to control crime in the streets, their abject cynicism about life in the station house and vacillation over whether to snitch on Aiello after they watch him kill a kid.
Typical of the problem director Daniel Petrie creates for himself, he introduces Pam Grier right away as a drug-crazed cop killer and brings her back a couple of more times for additional murders, effectively grizzly in detail. But she never says much and there’s never an inkling of what motivates her, other than dope.