I watched the poliziotto Roma Violenta last night. I thoroughly enjoyed it for the most part, for its no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners approach and the perhaps dubious enthusiasm which Maurizio Merli always seems to bring to the Inspector Betti role. I did feel it flagged a bit towards the end compared to, say, Napoli Violenta, perhaps because there was no strongly personified antagonist for Betti's crusade against crime in general. Admittedly this is maybe a good thing ideologically – i.e. the traditionally Hollywood good guys / bad guys, let's clean up this town notions are problematised – and it certainly helps in conveying the sense of a society falling apart.
What the film also made me wonder about, in combination with the various other poliziotto I've seen over the past few years is whether Mikel Koven's vernacular cinema thesis, that there are certain films which have no aspirations towards art and should be read for their social value for their target audience, might be better applied to the poliziotto than the giallo.
What I mean is that I've seen plenty of gialli that I feel run counter to Koven's thesis in consciously aspiring to art to a greater or lesser degree, but all the Italian cop films I've seen have been straightforward entertainments with a functional – and generally effective – mise-en-scene, relatively simple narratives and characterisations and plenty of “attractions” and emotional pay-offs. The one exception would be Ricky Tognazzi's La Scorta, which is a later film, with a different social / political context, and one I'm not sure even fits into the genre / filone.
So, for those who know more about the Italian cop film than I do, were there any more obviously aspirational, less vernacular films? Those of Fernando Di Leo, perhaps? Is / was there a distinction in the labels and descriptions used, so that a filmmaker like Umberto Lenzi made poliziotto whilst his art-house counterparts made contemporary set political dramas that just happened to feature police protagonists? And what would be some examples of the art-house / crossover cop film if such exist?