Saturday, 19 July 2008

Genova a mano armata / Merciless Man

If it would be difficult to think of a more generic title for a poliziotto than Genova a mano armata, writer-director Mario Lanfranchi's 1976 film nevertheless manages to produce the occasional surprise amongst the de rigeur shoot outs, brawls, chases, crosses and double-crosses.

Specifically, rather than being a dedicated crime fighter or a gangster, our protagonist (Tony Lo Bianco) is an ex-cop kicked off the force for inappropriate conduct.

Taking advantage of his father's Italian origins he's relocated to Genoa and set himself up as a private investigator – a post assumed against the wishes of local cop Gallo (Adolfo Celi) who is convinced 'The American' is up to something but cannot put his finger on anything specific.

Not that it can be said that the American has exactly shone in his new occupation, with his most recent case going spectacularly wrong on all counts as he failed to save a kidnapped businessman from being killed, the ransom from going missing and the kidnappers from escaping.

Nonetheless given that a group of gangsters seem intent on following the American's every move and also warn him against further involvement in the case he does at least have some leads to go on when the victim's daughter, Dr Marta Mayer (Maud Adams), hires him to track down her father's killers and bring them to justice one way or another...

Whether on account of the cross-over between the hunters and hunted or the apparent omission of 15 or 20 minutes of material in the version I watched, Genova a mano armata had a somewhat choppy narrative, being prone to jump from one plot point or incident to another without bothering too much about the finer details of the whys and wherefores

Though the eventual resolution goes some way to explaining how this should be so, it's also one of those cases of too little too late.

Other incidents along the way such as the American's shooting up heroin in order to infiltrate a private clinic he believes is involved in the increasingly confusing affair – presumably an idea borrowed from the French Connection 2, just as a later bus hijacking recalls Dirty Harry – strain credulity, without being well enough put together to get by on character, performance or direction alone, especially when we're not really given much reason to care about Lo Bianco's character to begin with.

Bond fans may care to note that the film may well be unique in starring not one but two of that franchise's major villains in the form of Thunderball's Celi and Octopussy's Adams, while the presence of Howard Ross / Renato Rossini as the leader of the gangsters should be a plus as far as Italian trash fans are concerned as will Franco Micalizzi's characteristically energetic score.

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