Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ten Statements About....LA MALA ORDINA (a.ka. THE ITALIAN CONNECTION and MANHUNT) (1971)

He's oily, she's got the weirdest fashion's a match made
in Italain Stereotype Heaven!
"These men are worthless. You've worked them over. Luca Canale has worked them over, and when their bruises heal, so will their fear, and that's exactly what must not happen! You've got to make sure the fear stays in them like an open wound."

1) Boy, there's nothing quite so engaging as Henry Silva and Woody Strode sitting together trying to out-stoneface each other. It's like watching the heads on Mount Rushmore trying to act all gangsta...

2) ...until you realize once Silva's Dave Catania hits Milan that he's more interested in chasing tail and throwing money around and he's....seriously goofy. I'm so used to Silva being the quiet, brooding guy of so many other films that seeing him lounging in yellow bathrobes, making it rain for a bunch of prostitutes and trying to bang hippy chicks is a bit of a culture shock. And the weird thing is that the interplay between Silva and Strode's Frank Webster is the most compelling thing about the film. There's this sense that Frank is there just as much to keep an eye on Dave as he is to kill a small-time pimp, and it's a fun and compelling little partnership.

3) But here's a big problem with the film. We spend almost the entire first act--roughly twenty minutes of the film's ninety minute running time--with Dave and Frank, following them around as they punch hookers, kick bikers in the nuts, insult mafia soldiers and otherwise raise hell in their search for Mario Adorf's Luca Canali. But after that they disappear for long stretches of time as we discover that it's Luca that's the real hero of the film and not these two. And because Luca comes off as a goof for all of the first act and a portion of the second, it takes a while for the film to regain that first twenty minutes' momentum.
Believe it or not...someone just told Woody Strode and Henry
Silva a funny joke.  This is them laughing.

4) As someone who called Adolfo Celli's Largo one of the most boring Bond villains of all time, I was really surprised at how cool his Don Vito comes off here. He goes through the entire film with this dark malicious light in his eyes, as if he's looking for the next person to slaughter. And the scene where Vito outdoes Dave in disciplining one of his soldiers by shooting them both dead is a highlight of the film.

5) Why is Luciana Paluzzi even in this film? She's established in the very first scene of the film as Dave and Frank's handler...and then all she does, it seems, is take the two of them to this same goofy nightclub so they can sit in a booth and ogle the naked women dancing on tabletops. Everything else Dave and Frank do, they do for themselves. Yeah, she's hot--the hottest of all the women on view here, although Francesca Romana Coluzzi comes close when she's not wearing that ridiculous blue wig--but narratively she contributes nothing.

6) Getting back to Luca, you know what else bugs me about him? He's established as a low-level pimp, and not a very good one. Nothing in the first thirty-some-odd minutes do we get any indication that he's nothing but a muttonchopped, oily 'tard. And then when everything starts going down we see him outwitting, outfighting and otherwise acting like Big King Ass Kicker Guy. There's a severe disconnect between the Canali of the first act and the Canali of the rest of the film. And speaking of which....

7) That chase scene that seems to be the central sequence of the film...Ye Gods, does it go on. It exceeds its Chase Tolerance Point by a mile, and having the chased being a thug driving a milk cart (!) gives it a rather silly cast. It could easily have lost a few minutes, especially from the back end.
Mario Adorf's attempt to recreate the scene where Tom Cruise
shows off in The Color of Money goes horribly, horribly wrong.

8) I find the slapping that goes on in this movie infinitely fascinating. It seems like the biggest insult of all--Hell, the scene where Luca's girl is being brutalized as punishment for not telling Vito where he is comes down to two men pinching her breast, jerking her around by the arm and taking turns slapping her. Given in an earlier scene the woman tells Luca they promised to cut off her arm, the whole slap fest seems a lil' anticlimactic.

9) Boy, nightclubs are really peculiar in policia films. Seemingly random people--including a few guys in glasses and business suits amongst the young hipsters--bouncing up and down without rhythm while some bizarre pop song

10) There's a weird mix of fairly normal acting performances mixed with some really theatrical ones that seem to come straight out of the silent era. The aforementioned girlfriend/hooker of Luca in particular is so broad as to yank the viewer out of the film whole.

Overall...a strange mix of elements, some of which (especially Silva and Strode acting like bad asses) are admittedly fun...but the way the film seems in love with its pimp lead, turning him into a total asskicker after promising us ninety minutes of Dave and Frank, makes it a slightly unsatisfying experience.

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