“The Godfather” meets “Death Wish” in this well crafted “Spaghetti Gangster” effort that benefits from excellent location photography and several high octane car chases.
The film begins,oddly enough,at a birthday party for a young boy, Carlo. The celebration appears to be a small one but the boy’s father, Tony,has spared no expense and hired a bartender for the occasion. Tony is a busy guy and has to dash from the bash for business . There are no hints at this point as to what he does for a living though he does sport enough hair oil to float OPEC during an energy crisis. He climbs into his car and drives for hours (through scenic Milan)before disembarking at a spa. He proceeds to a private room where he guns down a mafia chieftain, as well as a cabana boy who pays the ultimate price for failing to knock.
The next time we see Tony he is sitting down with his boss, Nick. He announces that he is retiring from the life and wants to go legit while his son is still unaware of what daddy does for his daily bread. Nick is on his way to a meeting of the local bosses and says he will do his best to sell the other guys on the idea. Turns out that they have a problem with it and refuse to accept Tony’s pink slip. Unfortunately they further decide that anyone who wants to quit isn’t trustworthy so they plan to retire him anyway-permanently.
The group opts to plant a bomb in Tony’s car but they don’t count on his wife and son using the vehicle . The resulting explosion wipes out Tony’s family as well as any plans for a reconciliation with the syndicate. Nick offers to mediate a peace but the group feels that it would be better if they just left town while their goons took care of Tony. They head to Copenhagen where they argue over how to divide the territory that Tony’s final assignment netted them. Meanwhile Tony decides that he wants to see the land that brought us Hans Christian Anderson.
The next hour sees lots of thugs and bosses die as Tony wages a one man war against his former employers. Along the way he gains some allies ,a hooker with a heart of gold and a buddy with a head of iron. The bosses fall like nine pins until only Tony and Nick remain. Nick makes a friendly gesture and offers Tony an invite to his daughter’s wedding celebration. What follows is an agonizing conclusion that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you wait to see if these two can bury a hatchet anywhere but in each other’s head.
This is one of the better entries into the short lived “Spaghetti Gangster” cycle of melodramas that poured out of Italy in the wake of the success of “The Godfather.” This film distinguishes itself by borrowing its back drama from Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece. Namely the infighting and political maneuvering that sparked the carnage in Mario Puzo’s story. The director had obviously seen Coppola’s film and even casts it’s chief villain Richard Conte(who played the treacherous Don Barsini) as Nick.
The role of Tony goes to Alain Delon. Though he’s actually French it’s still an homage as Delon helped usher in a wave of French gangster films during the 60’s when he teamed with Parisian director Jean Melville. The French gangster dramas ,in turn,inspired John Woo to reinvent the gangster genre in the late 80’s by casting Chow Yun-Fat in “The Killer” and “Hard Boiled.” The beat goes on.
This film is also a steal as it is priced at $5.99 and comes with four other Italian gangster films such as “Long Arm of the Godfather,” “Violent Professionals,” and “Magnum Cop.” For once a cheaply priced gift set that doesn’t include third generation copies of mediocre films. These are a true bargain and will merit repeated viewings.
Best Lines: “Where’s he going?”
“To the men’s room. He’s always going to the men’s room.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.