This film adaptation of a novel by Lawrence Sanders stars Frank Sinatra as a New York detective weeks away from retirement and Faye Dunaway as his ailing wife who is not recuperating from a kidney operation. It's only natural to assume that these two superstars will dominate this film, but they don't.

The plot has Sinatra tracking down a psychopathic killer. While he visits the hospital and fights off the roadblocks of a bureaucratic superior, a museum armaments curator zealously locates a weapon similar to the one used by the murderer. A hard-working coroner gives the detective more information, and a hustling doorman lets him search a suspect's pad without a warrant. These three minor characters — played by Martin Gabel, James Whitmore, and Joe Spinell — give The First Deadly Sin just the shot of idiosyncratic realism it needs to maintain our interest. And the subtext of their importance in the story points out just how crucial citizens are in the solution of crime.