Comfortable and Furious

The Violent Professionals: 70s Italian Crime

Did you find subtitles for this one?


Subtitled or no, could you explain the plot?

Suspended after killing two surrendering psychos escaped from prison, police inspector Giulio Caneparo (Luc Merenda) decides to take justice into his own hands to avenge the death of his boss, who was investigating a mysterious criminal gang responsible for a wave of bank robberies. With no official support, Caneparo starts to frequent seedy locales in order to infiltrate the gang and discover its sinister aims.


B-list American actors / have-beens earning a fast paycheck

Richard Conte plays a shadowy mob boss that isn’t quite as high up in the ranks as he appears to be. He was at least 62 years old when the movie was made, so it’s funny that in his two fistfights against the towering Merenda he is allowed to hold his own and land a few punches, lest we think he’s a wimp or something.

Typical examples of Italian scuzziness

Very, very little, as Merenda is French and from some angles looks like a less buffed up Schwarzenegger. Way less, of course. There is a middle-aged pimp with a scarf and leather pants, and a goon with a neckbeard and no mustache that could pass for a radical Muslim cleric, but this is grasping at straws.


Random acts of sadistic violence

Once again, it is a bad idea to yell at twitchy Italian criminals: a little girl is murdered off screen because she couldn’t stop crying, and a panicked pregnant woman is shot during a robbery, although we’re told later that her child survived. Caneparo questions an old ex-con by pushing him on a fishing net and threatening to lower him to the water. The pimp previously mentioned is kicked and slapped by Caneparo all the way from his second-story apartment to the street, though it was less sadistic than humiliating.

Superfluous displays of Mediterranean misogyny

Caneparo is good at billiard pool brawling and an ace driver, but I like that he must also prove his ability to live off a woman, working the streets to convince the Milan underworld of his toughness. Leaving that aside, almost nothing. What the fuck is wrong with this movie?


Instances of South-European police incompetence

A prisoner asks to take a leak during a train journey, and using the old chestnut “I can’t do it if you are watching”, produces a knife and stabs his guard, taking his submachine gun and mowing down three other guards that stupidly run one after the other to get in his line of fire. During a chase, a police car slightly nudges the car of the robbers, causing it to roll over, fly and get gloriously crushed in slow motion against a tree, killing the criminals inside and, ooops, the two women they had taken hostage. Too bad the stunt car is clearly empty: didn’t they have dummies around in the 70s?

Body count



Is it any good?

A solid if undistinguished effort, with more thrills than usual. Besides the comparatively high death toll, there were four whoopin’ car chases, which is a good thing, since Sergio Martino’s blunt direction was more effective dealing with the action than with the drama. The oddest scene was the death of a major character, depicted in such a fast and abstract way that for a moment I wasn’t sure I had imagined it or that Seijun Suzuki had momentarily taken the reins. As with most movies, Italian or otherwise, I wished he had, but this one was very enjoyable.

As noted above, The violent professionals barely scores in the usual departments, but it more than makes up with its Stupid Political Content (c). An hour into it, I thought this was the most reactionary film of the lot, as it sided with Caneparo’s firm belief that violent scum must be deal with in its own terms, the police commissioners chew him out for every one of his transgressions, the Italian courts are said to allow felons to run wild in the streets, and the Italian equivalent of the Counterculture are depicted as a bunch of ineffectual and hedonistic junkies. There’s some ominous talk throughout that the gang is an anarchist group hell bent on spreading terror, but then the plot twist comes (because most of these movies must have a plot twist), and… surprise! Turns out the Mabuse-like leader of the gang is none other than the lone police chief that has been sympathetic to Caneparo’s struggle. See, he wants to impose chaos in Italy so that a fascist regime can eventually emerge and restore order, and after his unmasking he pleads for Caneparo’s help in achieving this goal. Of course, Caneparo pretends to agree, blah blah, car chase, blah blah, the fascist chief dies, and symbolically Caneparo drops his gun rather than his badge before turning and walking away. Which would be all fine and dandy, except for the entirety of the movie Caneparo has got results through violence, not governmental inquiries or leaks to the press or donning Guy Fawkes masks. Let that be the real lesson to the lefties.

Prog-rock or proto-Morricone?

Composed by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, there’s a main theme that sounds like a brooding Morricone tune with a synth thrown in, and several funky and piano ditties to go along with the robberies. Those were the days…