Paul Newman’s character is actually a lot cooler than this movie poster makes out

Movie City: The Bronx

AJ Mastav
5 min readApr 29, 2021

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“Shoot a purse snatcher — they’d crucify me!”

“Say he pulled a knife — we’d back you up.”

This bit of dialogue between two cops on the beat in the film Fort Apache the Bronx is typical of the movie’s overall tone. It presents the South Bronx as a place where a decent man, in this case Paul Newman, is struggling to stand up straight while the undertow of immorality is sucking the sand out from under his feet.

Filming in the South Bronx in 1981 was like setting a movie today inside Donald Trump’s brain — a place that’s in the news a lot, speculated about, and considered by many to be among the most hostile places on the planet.

Unlike one man’s mind, however, the South Bronx contained — and continues to contain — multitudes. And that’s part of the problem with the movie: Fort Apache the Bronx is told almost exclusively from the perspective of white men. The title itself tells you where it’s coming from: the police station is the only outpost of civilization in the neighborhood, like a fort on the frontier in 1860 — layers upon layers of offensive imagery.

So much so that the movie was protested by residents of the Bronx when it was made, and the filmmakers were pressured into putting a title card at the beginning of the movie stating that it was “a portrayal of the lives of two policemen” and, as such, did…

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AJ Mastav

Professional planner, unprofessional writer. Member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Also, a former Sunday School teacher.