Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Italian Exploitation Month, Poliziotteschi Tuesdays: Street Law (1974)

            Fascism, Italian-style.

             Franco Nero gets in on that Death Wish action here in Enzo G. Castellari’s Street Law, where the mild-mannered Carlo Antonelli freaks the fuck out after being involved in a bank robbery gone wrong, and thus decides to take the law into his own hands and utterly destroy the men who wounded his pride. At least Paul Kersey had an understandable motivation: Nero’s character here pretty much tears up half of Genoa after having what amounts to a really bad day. 
            But, in a refreshing change of pace for a Death Wish knockoff, Carlo isn’t some unstoppable badass; he starts screwing up the minute he decides to take the law into his own hands, getting in over his head time after time in his pursuit of the bank robbers who wronged him. In the lead role, Nero is as reliable as ever, his steely gaze and ferocious intensity making up for what amounts to a character who kind of brings all the later suffering and torment on himself and others. Also notable is the young thug he winds up taking under his wing, played by Giancarlo Prete - their developing relationship helps to distinguish Street Law from other Death Wish wannabes, as Carlo has to make peace with the fact that not all criminals deserve a violent death. Barbara Bach also appears, getting second billing on the poster, but she only shows up in a handful of scenes to stand around and look worried.

             Street Law’s greatest stenghth, however, is Castellari’s surefooted direction. There’s not much in the way of deep introspection (although it’s also not as vapid as it might appear at a glance), but Castellari was a master at bringing the thrills, chills and spills in on a budget. There’s a chase scene at the beginning that showcases the beautiful cityscape of Genoa, an opening montage depicting violent crimes that’s so overblown it becomes comical (that also features an amazing theme song by Guido and Marizio De Angelis) and a classic over-the-top shootout in slow-motion as was Castellari’s custom.

            There are better examples of the poliziotteschi, but Street Law is still a worthy entry in the genre for those looking for that classic Italian brand of sleaze.

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