Sunday, August 7, 2011

In The Name Of Love He Killed A Man...Destroyed Another...Spit On His Badge And Tore A City Apart Brick By Brick, Street By Street, Punk By Punk, To Find His Wife.

Director: Sergio Sollima
Cast: Oliver Reed, Fabio Testi, Agostina Belli

Revolver, re-titled Blood in the Streets for North American release, is one of the more thought provoking and well made of the relatively obscure Italian crime genre. Seemingly everybody was trying these things out in the 70s, including Lucio Fulci and other future zombie and cannibal filmmakers. The films were often brutal and bloody, echoing the techniques used on the country's much celebrated spaghetti westerns, which some of them often resembled. Most were ripoffs of more popular American, and sometimes, British film product. Revolver is an oddball film because while on the surface it appears to be a run of the mill hostage film, it actually contains well developed characters and story archs that are comparable to the shadowy worlds of Jean Pierre Melville and Sergio Leone.

The film begins with two men escaping from a heist goen wrong. One of the men, Milo Ruiz(Fabio Testi) survives, but tearfully, has to bury his friend. He is found and sent to prison. We are then introduced to Vito Capriani(Oliver Reed) who is first seen in bed with his beautiful wife(Agostina Belli). They appear to be recently married and are discussing things about the house. Vito is a tough prison warden and means to spend more time with his wife, but is always on call at the prison. Not wasting any time, he gets a phone call informing him that he his wife has been kidnapped and to get her back, he must release Milo to a crime syndicate. Vito dosen't want to play their game, so he takes the gangster hostage and demands his wife be returned to him. What ensues is a strange mixture of double crosses, twists and turns and a slow and steady bond between policeman and gangster that really forms the heart of the film. The plot becomes convoluted at times, but is kept on track by the fine direction and quick pacing. The surprise towards the end is that the syndicate wants to actually murder Milo and this plays with Vito's conscience, especially when he is asked to do the deed himself.

Revolver is one of the most forgotten gangster films of the 1970s, which was a pretty rich period for the genre. It's well directed and edited, though surprisingly, given the genre and reputation of the director, not as action heavy as one would expect. It's certainly a violent movie, the fist fights and shootouts are both brutal and realistic, but this is more of a thriller than an action picture. The film contains a bizarre proggy score by the great Ennio Morricone, containing some sections that reminded me of his later work on Brian Depalma's The Untouchables(1987). It's an enormous plus that the producers were able to secure his services for this picture, because it's fantastic. The cast all perform better than average, particularly Reed, who is over the top and swearing up a storm throughout. He enjoys shouting several tough guy lines, particularly involving blowing somebody's guts out. He also looks good in the action scenes, giving a realistic grittiness to the proceedings that enhances the tension. Reed appears more and more distraught as the film continues, being sometimes wild and hysteric, while also being quiet and stoic. The filmmakers noted several times that he had been inebriated during the production and while that is certainly hinted at onscreen, it does not injure his fine performance. The rest of the cast are very good, Testi in particular, stretching his acting muscles more than he had in his many b-films that he made during the decade. His criminal is progressively sympathetic and decent and we really feel sorrow for him and his inevitable fate. The camaraderie between him and Reed are what makes the picture so powerful, serving as a tie to the existentional world of the French New Wave and the contemporary bloodbaths of Sam Peckinpah and later, John Woo.

Revolver is a very fine film that works on almost an arthouse level, while also being gritty and tough enough to appeal to fans of the genre. It's one of Oliver Reed's best films and one of the meanest crime pictures of the era, delivering the goods with sharp violence, exploitive elements and a harsh script that is decidely anti-Hollywood in structure. Revolver deserves to be better known and holds a spot in the pantheon of great lost films worthy of reevaluation and criticism.

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