Monday, 4 February 2013

The Cynic, The Rat And The Fist

 When you hear the names Umberto Lenzi, Thomas Milian, John Saxon and of course Maurizio Merli all linked with one production, you know it's going to be a feast of violence and action. That is exactly what you get with this 1977 poliziotteschi classic. Maurizio Merli is on top form as the no nonsense retired cop Leonardo Tanzi who isn't afraid to go outside of the law to dish out the justice, one bullet or backhand at a time. Tomas Milian plays as Luigi "the Chinaman" Maietto who has recently escaped jail and is seeking his revenge om Tanzi for putting him in the slammer in the first place. John Saxon plays as Franco Di Maggio, a high flying mob boss who is conducting business with the recently escaped Maietto.
After surviving a hit put out by Maietto, Tanzi decides to play along and play dead so he can go outside of the law and sort out Maietto once and for all. What follows is a showcase  of tough talking, shoot outs and some signature hands on justice from Maurizio Merli. The body count is high in this film, which is to be expected from the director that gave us such films as the infamous Cannibal Ferox. Some of the highlights include John Saxon perfecting his golf shot with an informant, Tomas Milian ordering some repair work via a wrench, Maurizio Merli having a 3 on 1 tussle over some coffee and a brilliant fight prison fight scene. They are just a few of the many adrenalin pumping scenes of violence in this film. No man or woman is safe but you already knew that.
 The story isn't that important to a film like this but there is a strong one here. It's a case of our hero doing what he can to survive and get to the Chinaman before he gets him first. Tanzi tries to drive a wedge in between the two gangsters. Will he succeed? Who will come out on top? Is there a happy ending? I'm sorry people but that is something for you to find out for yourself. All I can say is, it's quite a ride!
Overall, this is a high octane, unapologetic gem of a crime movie. All our actors are on top form playing as some of the most genuinely engrossing and likable characters put on screen. The dialogue is spot on and there are some fantastic one liners, especially from the Chinaman. That being said, there are some moments in the American dub that are great for the wrong reasons but it's the tiny details like that which adds to the charm of this film. The violence is fantastic and doesn't let up. If you have yet to delve into the sub genre that is Italian crime, this is a great ambassador of the genre and you will find yourself wanting to watch this again and again. One of the other highlights is the fantastic score from Franco Micalizzi which just helps the action flow and sparks images of being involved in your own shoot outs in your head. Umberto Lenzi is well known for his exploits in the horror genre but it's films like this, Almost Human and Violent Naples that really show how much of a great director he is.
 If you can, I would highly recommend you try and seek out the absolutely gorgeous German DVD from Film Art, the transfer is great and there is a wealth of special features. You can however watch this on Youtube for free and there are easy to get box sets from Allegro that you can pick up for pennies on Amazon. The quality isn't the best on those but they are great if you want that added rented VHS feel which doesn't harm the film at all.