December 01, 1980 12:00 PM

Early in the second stage of his movie career, Frank Sinatra delivered memorable dramatic performances in From Here to Eternity and The Man with the Golden Arm. After that, however, his acting, musicals excepted, was characterized mostly by insouciance in a series of monotonous tough-guy, wise-guy roles. This, his first feature film in 10 years, offers tantalizing glimpses of how effective an actor he could have been. Playing a weary, ready-to-retire New York City cop trying to catch a psychotic murderer, he displays real flashes of warmth, wit and vulnerability. Director Brian Hutton, however, whose top credit is Where Eagles Dare, at times lets Sinatra get away with offhand readings, at others cuts him off in mid-emotion. A preposterous script from Lawrence Sanders’ hit novel doesn’t help. Only the supporting cast provides some interest, albeit of an eccentric kind. Faye Dunaway establishes a record of sorts by playing her whole part as Sinatra’s wife drowsing in a hospital bed. Martin Gabel, as a museum curator assisting on the case, is phenomenally hammy. James Whitmore employs all his upstaging tricks as a medical examiner. And David Dukes does a twitchy, road show DeNiro as the killer The result may not be a sin, but it is a transgression. (R)

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