Saturday, 13 October 2007

La Banda del trudico / Destruction Force

Recently promoted following the murder of his predecessor, Taddei, Commissario Ghini (Luc Merenda) faces an unenviable situation. Crime, petty and serious, is spiralling out of control and three notorious underworld figures, Lanza (Franco Citti), Belli and Tocci, have congregated on Rome, clearly with nefarious deeds in mind...

Note Milian's extra credit

Meanwhile 'married' and with a son, Monnezza Jr, Monnezza (Tomas Milian) is running a restaurant – its speciality is abusing customers alongside their meal – and trying to stay out of trouble. This doesn't mean giving up a life of crime per se, more working according to an honourable, old-time credo of “no guns, only balls” and teaching a gang of apprentices the tricks of the trade...

Monnezza's trattoria

While Ghini pursues Lanza, whom he suspects of being behind Taddei's murder – a hit which has clearly been sanctioned by someone high up in the underworld, and for which Lanza has likely gained permission to return to the city following an exile in Sardinia – Monnezza is visited by an old associate, Gianni, who offers him the job of getaway driver on an upcoming score. Though Monnezza declines, wary that Gianni's methods are not always in accord with his own ethos, he suggests that his friend Frog might be a suitable replacement, little realising that the decidedly trigger happy Belli and Tocci are the ones behind the job...

Guns and flipper; there's also the obligatory pool tables there as well...

Predictably their raid on a jewellery wholesalers goes somewhat Reservoir Dogs, leading Belli to cover his tracks and putting him on collision course with Monnezza and Ghini, who has by this time dealt with Lanza...

As this synopsis perhaps suggests, La Banda del trudico / Destruction Force is the kind of film which works more in terms of individual (action) set pieces and (comedy) routines than as a coherent whole, with the Merenda and Milian halves not quite coming together nor being deployed to any particular evident end besides that of crossing off extra checkboxes in the hope of appealing to a wider audience.

Another Jimmy il fenomeno sighting?

It's the way in which – to use a succession of sequences from the midway point – an extended chase and shoot-out between Ghini and Lanza is followed by Monnezza explaining his philosophy of life to his infant son as he prepares a meal, with this in turn succeeded by Lanza's invasion of Ghini's home in search of revenge, followed by yet more ineptitude from Monnezza's apprentices.

There's no real relationship between the four sequences nor any indication of the passage of time between them – Lanza was shot in the shoot out, and has had the wound patched up by the time he enters Ghini's home, the latter sequence also beginning in media res as Ghini receives a phone call from his girlfriend / wife – with a strong impression thus that the Monezza material, credited to Milian, was been inserted more or less at random into the main script, credited to Massi and the Elisa Briganti / Dardano Sacchetti combo. (As an aside, are there any interviews with Briganti out there? Given her work on Zombie and others, one would think she's an ideal subject for further research, particularly around the nature of her collabrations / co-credits with Sacchetti.)

Roma a mano armata

Again, however, none of this necessarily mattered as far as the filone audience was concerned, forty-five minutes of Milian being better than zero, but it does also impart that sense of trying to please everyone and thus failing to completely satisfy anyone when compared with the more consistent and focussed approach one finds in a Milian / Monnezza vehicle or, indeed, Massi's Marc trilogy.

This is about as close to a De Niro / Pacino moment between Milian and Merenda as we get

Likewise, one does wonder what the moral of the tale is when Monnezza's apprentices repeatedly meet with failure in their attempts to be 'honest', old-style criminals and the more direct route of the modern armed robber appears the one more likely to get results, even if the issue is then that of holding on to this loot for long enough to convert it to ready cash...

Milian / Monnezza in full effect

Massi's direction is a touch zoom happy but he counters this with some energetic circling handheld camera, effective handling of the all-important action scenes and inventive set-ups. Again, something seems to be lacking at times, however, as when Monnezza's demonstrations of sleight of hand are broken down in a way that you don't see what Milian is doing when he lifts a wristwatch with his finger or that it's actually his hands doing three card monte. (One here thinks of the way the action and comedy are successfully integrated in the likes of the Police Story films, and the necessity of showing the reality of certain stunts and tricks.)

A show off composition, but what is being shown off to best effect ;-)

Bruno Canfora's score, while pushing the right funky buttons, sounds suspiciously more like pre-existing pieces than tailor-made cues, with some of the action pieces perhaps not as well integrated as they might be; certainly there's no Ghini signature theme along the lines of Marc's “my name is Marc” disco theme. More positively, a spaghetti western cue gives the right mock-serious drama to a sequence in which two of Monnezza's bungling apprentices attempt to snatch fur coats from a hairdressers only to find their getaway car has in turn been stolen; later on there's also a moment where Monnezza strikes a match on his skinhead apprentice's head, reminiscent of the Lee Van Cleef / Klaus Kinski exchange in For a Few Dollars More.

Though Luc Merenda is billed first, there appears little question that it is Tomas Milian who was really running the show, as indicated by the aforementioned dialogue credit and that of his dubbing voice, Ferrucio Amendola. (At this time Milian didn't feel sufficiently comfortable in delivering Monnezza's highly idiomatic dialogue convincingly with his own voice.) This isn't in itself a bad thing, insofar as Milian is clearly having a ball with the character and infects the viewer with his unbridled enthusiasm, but equally there is again that impression of two different half-films passing one another.

Perhaps the emblematic moment here stems from one of the blink-and-you'll miss them scenes of Ghini's domestic life, as he asks his girlfriend / wife whether she would prefer to go see a movie and then have dinner, or to have dinner and then see a movie. Recently recovered from a near rape, she says that if they go to cinema it would have to be for “a funny movie, not a horrible Italian [cop] thriller”

I wonder what she would have made of Destruction Force itself in this regard...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's a far too brief Elisa Briganti interview on the Media Blasters DVD for Fulci's ZOMBIE/ZOMBI 2.

Of course, Sacchetti dominates most of it.