Sunday, 1 November 2015

Milano Calibro 9 (1972)

This review is for the Arrow Video Blu-Ray with the Italian soundtrack and English subtitles.

A simple story of a missing $300,000 which the local mob, headed by il Americano, assumes has hidden by Ugo. Recently released from prison, Ugo must either find the money and clear his name with the Americano or die. As if that's not enough, Ugo has to deal with the local Milano fuzz.

Milano Calibro 9 is an Italian crime thriller from '72 with a super cool title (damn those Italians and their titles!) and it is not your average Poliziotteschi - this film adds a dash of socialism to the mix of guns, money and girls.

Gastone Moschin is terrific as the morose Ugo. While everything around him is exploding he somehow manages to be the calm in the eye of the storm. Even when getting slapped around you know that there will be payback, even if you're not entirely sure how or when. Of course we need a hothead to play against taciturn Ugo and that is ably supplied by Mario Adorf's Rocco. A veritable whirlwind of energy, wisecracks, gurning and one of the dirtiest laughs I've heard on screen. He reminded me of a cross between George Cole's Flash Harry from the St. Trinians films and Pops from the League of Gentlemen - a scenery chewing spiv! Then we have il Americano, played by guess who? Only fucking Hart to Hart's Lionel Stander!

So where does the socialism come from? The police! We have the usual incompetent police force, but this time it's not their stupidity that stops them from solving the crime, it's their inability to work together without bickering over politics. We have one detective who believes in the capitalist economy and the other who wants prison reform and the re-distribution of wealth. This is also mirrored with the differences between il Americano (the capitalist) and Ugo (the socialist).

Another interesting theme is the way the film juxtaposes the traditional against the modern, with Ugo's old boss Don Vincenzo, now living in a crumbling tenement with his ageing enforcer Chino, against il Americano's brash young thugs. The director could also be showing us the effect of American influences on Italian society (the old traditional Don in poor health, blind and with no influence versus il Americano).

To balance the political message we have the usual Poliziotteschi action sequences including the novel use of dynamite to get rid of some bodies. There are black Mercedes', shoot-outs, explosions, punch ups and go-go dancing. Even J&B Whisky makes makes several, hilariously obvious, appearances.

Some favourite moments: Rocco silencing his punch by pushing a pillow against someone's face; the aforementioned dynamite scene; the swimming pool shot towards the end looking remarkably like the scene from Magnum Force (even though that film came out a year later); the way Chino doesn't throw his pistol away (a la Hollywood) when it's empty.

Possibly my favourite scene though is when Chino fights Rocco and his hoods. Rocco finds out that it is Chino (and by implication Don Vincenzo) he is fighting and even though Chino is obviously washed-up, Rocco still gives back the money he stole from Ugo and asks permission to leave the apartment. Money and influence comes and goes; reputation is everything in Milano Calibro 9.

The film is economically shot and very nicely paced. The performances are excellent all round and the soundtrack is full of strings, heavy bass, flaming guitars and flutes. Groovy, with a heavy Euro-funk vibe that manages to not come over like a continental Starsky & Hutch. The Arrow Blu-Ray is excellent with no noticeable DNR and a nice subtle grain.

Whichever way you look at it Milano Calibro 9 is a fine film with hidden depths.

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