Saturday, 23 May 2015

Almost Human (1974)

This review is for the Shameless DVD in Italian with English subs.

A small time crook in search of respect and the big score, descends into a pit of violence and mayhem.

I think this may be my first Poliziotteschi and I'm pretty excited! I've seen a far few gialli, the usual Italian cannibal and zombie films, but Crimi films have somehow always escaped my attention. Here's goes...

The first shot shows a black Citroen DS, so we're off to a good start as I always identify this car with Euro-crime thrillers. Admitted in the past these films have nearly always been French and star Alain Delon but viva Italia! We then move to a botched kidnapping and a pretty thrilling and very nicely shot car chase through the streets of Milan. Good stuff!

Tomas Milan plays Giulio Sacchi, a repulsive and cowardly small time crook eager to move up in the crime world and, after bungling a kidnapping for some "proper" criminals, strikes out on his own with another kidnapping - this time of a rich businessman's daughter. Whiny and pathetic Sacchi is willing to do anything to get noticed including killing anyone who gets in his way. It's almost like school - a kid gets picked on and then, over-compensating for his perceived weakness, bullies other children weaker than himself. In one scene he even gets his hostage to write "They'll put my head in the toilet bowl, and they will pull the chain" - he has become the school bully and is demanding respect.

Milan is excellent as Sacchi and seems to be channelling Tony Montana, with his shades, haircut and matchstick chewing (yes, I know that this film is 9 years older than Scarface - but it's true!). Montana would never be seen dead in a duffle-coat though. Sacchi is a man who makes up for his lack of intelligence and incompetence with violence. He wants everything but is too lazy to work for it, unlike the cops who work hard, get paid little but finally win out.

Speaking of which... Henry Silva is great as Walter Grandi, a calm and efficient police detective, and serves as a counterpoint to the out of control brutality of Sacchi. Grandi is the first to relalise that the body count is only going to increase as Milan spins out of control and that he needs to be stopped, at whatever cost.

There seems to be two subtle themes to Almost Human: religious and societal subjugation of the poor. In one memorable scene Sacchi and his cronies are hiring guns from a dealer called "Daddy" who refers to his firearms using reverence and religious quotes. Religion features again when the criminals break into a rich person's home and also occur later in the film. The rich are portrayed as just as criminal as Sacchi and his brethren, intent on making money with as little effort as possible (the 1973 oil crisis and how it will make money for the rich).

Almost Human is a film where you don't cheer on the bad guy. Sacchi is no Robin Hood - he steals from the rich and poor alike and kills anyone who gets in his way. He has no redeeming features at all and is throughly repulsive. I won't give away the ending although, to be honest, if you know your crime films you know how it ends. The law is an ass and you need to fight violence with violence.

The soundtrack is clear but has occasional pops and crackles. The image is fine if a little blurry at times. The subs are in yellow and were adequate if sometimes a little to literal. Morricone nails the score yet again!

Original letterboxd review

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