Sunday, 7 February 2010

Poliziotto sprint / Highway Racer

If The Beyond is one of the most single minded of Italian horror films, inasmuch as its anti-narrative is little more than an excuse for stringing together its set pieces and contributing further to its mood, Highway Racer / Poliziotto sprint might be taken as something of its analogue within the poliziotto filone.

For just about everything in it is geared towards showcasing car stunts and chases, to the extent that the contributions of director Stelvio Massi and leading man Maurizio Merli almost feel peripheral at times compared to Remy Julienne and his team: Who staged this scene? Who was behind the wheel of Merli's car, when everything is in long shot and the windows are tinted?

Merli plays Marco Palma, a Rome cop determined to prove he's the best driver out there. This is an opinion not shared by his boss Tagliaferri, due to Palma's tendency to write off one car after another and show little regard for the safety of others, and because in his day Tagliaferri was himself a hot-shot driver.

When Tagliaferri's old nemesis il Nazzardo shows up in Rome to lead a series of audacious robberies, Palma finally gets his chance as he is charged with infiltrating the gang. This necessitates his being shown all of Tagliaferri's old tricks – and showing his teacher some of his own, as far as gunplay is concerned – and given that symbol of Italian machismo, the Ferrari. (Since Lambourghini started off making farm machinery such as tractors, they don't count.)

There's a nationalistic aspect to the cars used by the two sides more generally, with the Italian cops driving the usual boxy Alfa-Romeos – albeit with a blue and white livery rather than the more usually seen green and white squadra volante design – and the French-led robbers preferring the elegant lines of the Citroen DS series.

Where the film fails is away from its action sequence. As written, Merli's character is pretty unsympathetic, with the death of his partner, the result of his reckless driving in their first encounter with il Nazzardo, warranting no soul searching, desire for revenge or even comment. He also plays the role without his trademark moustache. While this helps in making Marco seem more youthful it also creates something of an alienation effect, causing you to do a double take that this is in fact Merli.

While Marco has a girlfriend, played by Lilli Carati, she's included more for the possibility of threatening to reveal his real identity when he is undercover than anything else and, as such, also jars a bit given the single-mindedness he shows in other regards. Still, she does work for a car dealers...

Stelvio Cipriani provides the score, a collection of characteristically ostenato-driven funky / percussive tension-builders.

1 comment:

Samuel Wilson said...

Merli without his moustache was an alarming sight at first, and it signifies the oddity of this police film. The obsession with cars and speed ultimately rendered the story rather cartoonish for me. It shows what can go wrong when car chases become an end in themselves.