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Report to the Commissioner

Report to the commissioner
Report to the Commissioner.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Tom Jung
Directed byMilton Katselas
Produced byM.J. Frankovich
Screenplay byAbby Mann
Ernest Tidyman
Based onReport to the Commissioner
by James Mills
StarringMichael Moriarty
Music byElmer Bernstein
CinematographyMario Tosi
Edited byDavid Blewitt
Frankovich Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • February 5, 1975 (1975-02-05)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States

Report to the Commissioner is a 1975 crime drama film based on James Mills' 1972 novel. It involves a rookie cop (Michael Moriarty) in the New York City Police Department who is assigned a special missing person case, which in fact is meant to be a wild-goose chase to back up an undercover female police officer's role as the girlfriend of a drug dealer.

The film was directed by Milton Katselas and features a musical score by Elmer Bernstein. The script is by two Oscar-winning screenwriters, Abby Mann (Judgment at Nuremberg) and Ernest Tidyman (The French Connection). It marked Richard Gere's film debut.


As the film opens, June 11, 1974, two uniformed New York City police officers discover the body of a young woman who has been shot in a seedy apartment. It is revealed that the dead woman was an undercover officer. The man who shot her is led out of a Saks department store, sweaty and on the verge of panic -- he is a plainclothes detective. Back at headquarters, the police commissioner (Stephen Elliott), calling it the biggest scandal in department history, berates the heads of the Narcotics Bureau and sends them away. He then instructs Captain Strichter (Edward Grover) of the IAD to carry out a full investigation and give him a report. The rest of the film plays out in the form of flashbacks covering the events narrated by the various people interviewed for the titular report to the commissioner.

Shaggy-haired rookie Beauregard "Bo" Lockley (Michael Moriarty) reports for duty at a detective squad and is mocked by the grizzled veterans ("They sent us a hippy"). His father was a policeman and, since Bo's brother was killed in Vietnam, he joined the force more from a sense of filial duty than anything else. His presence is explained by the commissioner's idea that a new breed of cop is needed to deal with the issues of the day. Veteran detective Richard "Crunch" Blackstone (Yaphet Kotto) explains the ways of the streets to young Bo, including cracking a pimp across the jaw with a blackjack in broad daylight in front of a uniformed officer. Impatient with the antics of legless Joey Egan (Bob Balaban), Crunch grabs the dolly on which Joey pushes himself around the city and tosses it into a dumpster. The kind-hearted Bo climbs in and retrieves it.

Patricia "Pat" Butler (Susan Blakely), an attractive young female undercover officer, is pretending to be a runaway with the nickname of Chicklet. Relentlessly ambitious and extremely dedicated to the goal of bringing down drug dealers, she asks for and receives permission from her superiors, Lieutenant Hanson (Michael McGuire) and Captain D'Angelo (Héctor Elizondo) of the Narcotics Bureau, to be the live-in girlfriend of Thomas "Stick" Henderson (Tony King), a known drug dealer, so that she can gather evidence against him. They choose not to get approval for this operation from Narcotics Bureau Chief Perna (Dana Elcar) since he will probably say no. To back up Butler's cover story, Hanson and D'Angelo decide to send an unsuspecting detective ("some jerkoff" in D'Angelo's words) on a search for Chicklet; hopefully, the fact that a cop is searching for her will end up being reported to Stick, which should convince him that the woman really is a runaway. Lieutenant Seidensticker (Vic Tayback) gives the job to the hapless rookie Bo Lockley, withholding from him the true nature of the assignment; Bo thinks he's really searching for the missing daughter of a politician. Seidensticker instructs Bo to "go through the motions, file a report, everybody'll be happy" (a more experienced detective would have realized that he was being sent on a fool's errand and not to pursue this assignment too vigorously).

Bo is a determined and persistent detective and has no notion that his search is not meant to succeed. He pays a hustler named Billy (Richard Gere) for information on the whereabouts of Chicklet. After realizing Billy has cheated him, Bo threatens him with a gun and ends up uncontrollably pistol whipping him. The viewer is thus given a hint that perhaps Bo is not entirely suited for the job. With the help of the legless Joey, Bo tracks Stick and Chicklet to a disco club in the city. When Bo confronts the woman to tell her that he wants to restore her to her parents, she cuts him off. She immediately goes into a phone booth in the club and calls headquarters to tell them that she thinks she has just been identified by a cop (she has not been told about the plan to use Bo to solidify her cover). Terrified that her cover is about to be blown, she promises to meet him the next day if he will just leave. Back in his apartment, Bo is unable to sleep. He calls Seidensticker to tell him he has been successful in tracking down Chicklet. Irritated, Seidensticker tells him, "You stay away from her, just lay off of her. You never heard of her, you understand?" Bo is to work a regular 4:00-to-12:00 the next day.

Bo is either infatuated with Chicklet or not able to just allow her to be another young girl abandoned by the system. When she fails to show up the next day as promised, he goes to Stick's loft to rescue her. In the loft are crates of rifles and shotguns intended for the use of black radicals -- clearly, Stick is not merely a drug dealer. Bo and Stick engage in a firefight during which Bo accidentally shoots Chicklet/Butler. Stick, dressed only in boxer shorts, escapes the apartment and a foot chase across the rooftops ensues. Stick works his way to street level and the chase continues to a Saks department store, where the two armed men trap themselves in a Mexican standoff in one of the store's elevators. Stick plays on Bo's fears, telling him that he is expendable by the police and that the two of them are now in it together (Captain D'Angelo does in fact talk Lieutenant Hanson into abandoning Bo to his fate and letting him take the fall for the whole fiasco). After the police turn off the air conditioning, Bo and Stick become drenched in sweat and lose bladder control.

The ordeal in the elevator lasts all night and into the next morning. In the meantime, the police have evacuated the store and lined up men with rifles, handguns and submachine guns aimed at the top of the elevator car. When Bo and Stick crawl out the elevator's ceiling panel, the police open fire. Crunch grabs Bo and drags him to safety, while Stick dies in the fusillade. Bo loses his composure and has to have the gun pried from his hand. He faints when told that he has killed a policewoman. Asst. DA Jackson (William Devane) interviews the exhausted Bo, surrounded by his superiors, in an office in the store. Jackson twists Bo's words and tries to trap him into admitting that he killed Chicklet/Butler out of sexual jealousy. Bo is indicted for first-degree murder and locked up at The Tombs; later he is moved to a "mental observation" cell.

The Commissioner decides to drop all charges against Bo (he also wants D'Angelo fired and his pension taken away but IAD Captain Strichter, who has been conducting all the interviews, talks him out of it). Strichter tells D'Angelo and Hanson they will be put in uniform and sent to patrol Bedford-Stuyvesant as punishment for not getting authorization for Butler's relationship with Stick. Crunch and Strichter go to The Tombs to give Bo the news that he is being completely exonerated only to find that he has hanged himself with a bedsheet.


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