This comedy-drama about ten debauched Los Angeles police officers – the “choirboys” of the title – begins with hot-tempered redneck cop Roscoe Rules (Tim McIntire) taunting a potential suicide by shouting “go ahead and jump, bitch!” until she does exactly that.
One storyline involves sensitive cop Baxter Slate (Perry King) who gets his kicks through S&M, while another follows Vietnam vet Sam Lyles (Don Stroud) perpetually on the edge of a complete meltdown.
Meanwhile, nerdy beat cop Harold Bloomguard (James Woods) is enlisted to entrap hookers because he looks like an accountant, and the fat slob named “Spermwhale” (Charles Durning) – just six months from retirement – gets into a grudge match with his overbearing superior officer (George DiCenzo) which gets serious when the lieutenant threatens Spermwhale’s pension.
There’s a cringe-inducing scene of a slow-witted cop sliding under a glass table to “kiss” the nether regions of a female officer sitting on the table, and another where Roscoe Rules wakes up by a pond in LA’s MacArthur Park after passing out from heavy drinking (the cops call their orgiastic drunken off-duty revels “choir practice”).
Roscoe looks down and discovers that a duck is pecking his dick with its beak. All around Roscoe, his fellow officers bust out laughing. Turns out that practical-joke-loving cop Francis Tanaguchi (Clyde Kusatsu) found Roscoe drunk, opened his zipper, and laid a trail of breadcrumbs from the pond to Roscoe’s privates.
The film has more than its share of physical and psychological violence, such as when a mischievous vice cop (Vic Tayback) taunts Roscoe with play-acted homosexual advances, triggering Roscoe to freak out and mercilessly pummel the vice cop until other officers intervene.
The theme of the film seems to be that anything goes if you’re wearing a badge. Pathetically sad moments are played for laughs, idiotically silly scenes are played straight, and the film’s sympathies seem to lie with its most depraved characters.
Ultimately, the boys in blue conspire to cover up the accidental killing of the most sympathetic character in the movie.
Author Joseph Wambaugh – a California policeman for fourteen years – was so incensed with this adaptation of his book, considering it to be such a poor adaption, that he denounced the project in a full-page advertisement in Variety and sued the production, and was successful in having his name removed from the film’s credits.
One of the original lead cast members, Walter McGinn, was killed in a drunk driving accident a few days after shooting began on the movie.
Louis Gossett Jr.
Spencer Van Moot
Deputy Chief Riggs
Ora Lee Tingle
No Balls Hadley
Jon K. Greene
James M. Halty