The Movie Waffler Re-Release Review - HIGH CRIME | The Movie Waffler

Re-Release Review - HIGH CRIME

high crime review
A determined cop makes dangerous enemies of a drug gang.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari

Starring: Franco Nero, Fernando Rey, James Whitmore, Delia Boccardo

high crime poster

By the early 1970s, cinemagoers had become burnt out on spaghetti westerns and so Italy's action filmmakers turned their sights to a more contemporary genre. Inspired by the success of Hollywood action thrillers like Bullitt and The French Connection, the Poliziotteschi genre was filled with maverick cops taking on ruthless mobsters, and as with the spaghetti westerns, these Italian films delivered operatic violence of the sort not found in American productions. They also drew inspiration from Italian current events. The '70s saw an explosion in the country of both Mafia violence and killings carried out by political extremists, a period known as "The Years of Lead."

high crime review

One of the first major Poliziotteschi hits was Enzo G. Castellari's 1973 film High Crime. Castellari and his writers drew inspiration from a real life incident that had shocked Italy – the assassination of high-ranking police officer Luigi Calabresi. Of course, the film owes a debt to American movies, particularly the aforementioned The French Connection.

This influence is seen early on with a prologue set in the French port of Marseilles, then a notorious centre for narcotics distribution, and also with the casting of Fernando Rey as Cafiero, a Marseilles based mobster. Cafiero becomes something of a proto-Hannibal Lector, aiding Genoa police vice-commissioner Belli (Franco Nero) in his quest to take down the mobsters taking over the Italian city. As with Lector, Cafiero isn't exactly a trustworthy figure, leading both Belli and the audience to wonder if he isn't using the cop for his own benefit.

high crime review

High Crime opens with its highlight, a lengthy chase that begins on foot through crowded streets before expanding to a car chase choreographed by acclaimed stunt driver Rémy Julienne, who would later work on the Bond franchise. As various of those involved boast on the blu-ray extras, the chase was largely shot in actual traffic and cameraman Roberto Girometti had a near miss when a flipped car landed inches away from the camera. There's a manic energy to the car chases of this era that has never been replicated, and while High Crime doesn't offer one of the most impressive, it's exciting nonetheless.

Sadly the film never quite replicates that energy as it gets bogged down in a rather uninspired tale of cops, mobsters and political corruption. There are lots of scenes in which Belli argues with various figures, be they his boss, his enemies or his girlfriend, and Castellari's idea of bringing energy to these scenes is to have Nero shout as loudly as he can at everyone he encounters. Whether it's a case of being lost in translation, the dialogue is particularly limp, with characters spelling out the messy plot through their various arguments.

high crime review

If you're after over the top violence you'll be satisfied however. Castellari must really hate dummies, as a variety of mannequins are blown to pieces and run over by cars and motorbikes, and their artificiality is all too obvious in this shiny new transfer. The movie climaxes with a genuinely shocking piece of violence and a downbeat ending that may well ruin your evening.

High Crime
 is on UK blu-ray, DVD and VOD from June 6th.