DirectorStuart Rosenberg Initial DVD releaseFebruary 1, 2005 Duration LanguageEnglish
Release dateDecember 20, 1973 (1973-12-20) (United States) Based onThe Laughing Policeman
by Sjowall and Wahloo WriterThomas Rickman (screenplay), Per Wahloo (novel), Maj Sjowall (novel) CastWalter Matthau (Sgt. Jake Martin SFPD), Bruce Dern (Insp. Leo Larsen SFPD), Louis Gossett, Jr. (Insp. James Larrimore SFPD (as Lou Gossett)), Albert Paulsen (Henry Camerero), Anthony Zerbe (Lt. Nat Steiner SFPD), Val Avery (Insp. John Pappas SFPD) Similar moviesMad Max: Fury Road, Jurassic World, John Wick, The Case of the Scorpion's Tail, Furious 7, Taken 3
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The Laughing Policeman (1973) is an American police procedural film loosely based on the novel The Laughing Policeman by Sjöwall and Wahlöö. The setting of the story is transplanted from Stockholm to San Francisco. It was directed by Stuart Rosenberg and features Walter Matthau as Detective Jake Martin.
A busload of passengers, including off-duty police detective Dave Evans, is gunned down and killed. Evans, on his own time, has been following a man named Gus Niles in search of information linking businessman Henry Camarero to the murder of his wife, Teresa, two years earlier.
Evans was the partner of Detective Sergeant Jake Martin, a veteran but cynical member of the Homicide Detail working the bus massacre investigation. Jake originally investigated the Teresa Camarero case and has been obsessed with his failure to "make" Camarero for the murder. Jake returns to it after many dead-end leads (including a disastrous confrontation with a deranged amputee who takes hostages at gunpoint) in the bus investigation. Niles was killed on the bus as well, and it was Niles who provided the alibi that enabled Camarero to cover up his wife's murder.
The sullen Jake and enthusiastic but impulsive Inspector Leo Larsen are paired to interview suspects. Jake shuts out Larsen from his deductions, while Larsen, despite a loose-on-the-rules and brutal side, tries to understand and gain the confidence of his new partner. Defying the orders of their police superior Lt. Steiner, they seek, find and then smoke out Camarero, leading to a chase through the streets of San Francisco and a confrontation aboard another bus.
Walter Matthau as Sgt. Jake Martin (Martin Beck in the novel)
Bruce Dern as Insp. Leo Larsen (Gunvald Larsson in the novel)
Louis Gossett, Jr. as Insp. James Larrimore
Anthony Zerbe as Lt. Nat Steiner
Albert Paulsen as Henry Camerero
Val Avery as Insp. John Pappas
Paul Koslo as Duane Haygood
Cathy Lee Crosby as Kay Butler
Joanna Cassidy as Monica
Gregory Sierra as Ken Vickery
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said, "The Laughing Policeman is an awfully good police movie: taut, off-key, filled with laconic performances. It provides the special delight we get from gradually unraveling a complicated case... The direction is by Stuart Rosenberg, and marks a comeback of sorts... With The Laughing Policeman, he takes a labyrinthine plot and leads us through it at a gallop; he respects our intelligence and doesn't bother to throw in a lot of scenes where everything is explained. All the pieces in the puzzle do fit together, you realize after the movie is over, and part of the fun is assembling them yourself. And there are a couple of scenes that are really stunning, like the bus shooting, and an emergency room operation, and scenes where the partners try to shake up street people to get a lead out of them. Police movies so often depend on sheer escapist action that it's fun to find a good one."