A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"The Night They Raided Minsky's" is being promoted as some sort of laff-a-minit, slapstick extravaganza, but it isn't.
It has the courage to try for more than that and just about succeeds. It avoids the phony glamour and romanticism that the movies usually use to smother burlesque (as in "Gypsy") and it really seems to understand this most-American art form.
Burlesque was born and thrived at a time when America was engaged in the early stages of the current moral revolution, when the rural Puritan ethic and the tentative "sophistication" of the cities discovered each other. Burlesque was essentially vaudeville plus sex, and in the early days the sex was direct, naive and almost innocent.
Director William Friedkin presents exactly that period, when there was an exuberance and healthy, robust quality burlesque later, dismally, lost. And he has placed his film solidly inside the Lower East Side society that produced Harold Minsky's burlesque. His characters live a public, voluble life, inhabiting delicatessens (and eating incredible, hilariously photographed meals). They dream up the sort of persecution of vice detectives that Ben Hecht was recording in Chicago. They regard burlesque not so much as an occupation, more a way of life.