Thursday, May 7, 2009
The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist (1977, Umberto Lenzi)
Ahh, Poliziotteschi. I love that word. Saying it makes me feel like Dennis Christopher's character in Breaking Away. Also known as an Italian crime film, this genre blended elements from American cop and revenge films like Dirty Harry and Death Wish, but added elements of exploitation: sex, bloody violence and torture, insane villains with strong physical traits, crazy stunts including some of the fastest fucking car and motorcycle chases ever filmed. One of the best known directors for these Italian crime films is Umberto Lenzi. Lenzi, who is also arguably the creator of the Italian Cannibal genre of the 70s (with Man from Deep River) used lots of POV camera work to masterfully capture high speed chases and frequently cast Maurizio Merli as a cop whose rage and use of violence puts most of the gritty American cops to shame. The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist is one example of all of these elements coming together.
In this film, Maurizo Merli reprises his role as cop Leonardo Tanzi from Roma A Mano Armata (Rome Armed to the Teeth). After faking his death to elude the dangerous criminal called The Chinaman (Tomas Milian), Tanzi goes on his own as a vigilante civilian after The Chinaman kills his uncle. Tanzi creates a crime war between The Chinaman and kingpin DiMaggio (John Saxon), involving money and stolen diamonds.
This movie is the real deal. It is one of the most action packed, high speed films you are going to see. Fuck Michael Bay and his Transformers, this is the kind of action film I like. Merli's character has no problem slapping the hell out of a woman and still getting her respect. Milian is great as The Chinaman (I don't get it, is he supposed to be Chinese? The only difference I noticed from his other roles is his bad hair cut and partially shaved eyebrows). Saxon is a treat too as DiMaggio, a ruthless, foul mouthed, crime lord who (in one of the film's best scenes) uses his love of golf to torture people. I am so used to seeing Saxon as a good guy or a cop (unless you count his role as the evil outer space ruler Sador from Battle Beyond the Stars), that his role here really stands out. Lenzi does a terrific job of keeping the action going without letting the audience take a breath. All of these ingredients make for one hell of a great movie.