A vigilante is just a man lost in the scramble for his own gratification. He can be destroyed, or locked up; but if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, you become something else entirely.
Henri Ducard - Batman Begins (2005)
I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!
Howard Beale - Network (1976)
Can't you people take the law into your own hands? I mean we can't be policing the entire city.
Chief Wiggum - "The Simpsons"
Street Law (1974) aka Il Cittadino si rubella aka Vigilante II...directed by Enzo G. Castellari (High Crime, Keoma, Bronx Warriors 2), the film stars popular Italian actor Franco Nero (High Crime, Keoma, Force 10 from Navarone, Die Hard 2: Die Harder). Also appearing is Giancarlo Prete (Mister X), Barbara Bach (The Spy Who Loved Me, Caveman), Nazzareno Zamperla (Ballad of Death Valley), Massimo Vanni (The New Barbarians), and Romano Puppo (The Heroin Busters).
The film begins with a four and a half minute display of various criminal activities including breaking and entering, vandalism, arson, theft, armed robbery, kidnapping, and murder...seems the criminals are running rampant and the authorities can do little to stop them. After getting all that out of the way we see a well-dressed man entering a bank and proceed to engage in some sort of transaction. Shortly after a gang of vicious masked gunman make the scene, manhandling patrons and bank employees alike. The well-dressed man, named Carlo Antonelli (Nero) tries to grab his dough on the counter, but gets brutalized by the robbers, who then grab him up (presumably as a hostage) during their getaway to which they beat the crud out of him in the car. After a lengthy high speed chase sequence the robbers escape, leaving a bloodied Carlo behind, frightened and humiliated by his ordeal. The authorities give Carlo a hard time for defying the robbers, and when their efforts to catch the criminals comes up seriously short, Carlo decides to take matters into his own hands in bringing the offenders to justice, much to the dismay of his girlfriend Barbara (Bach). After some failed attempts to get information from any number of underworld types, Carlo eventually resorts to blackmailing another crook named Tommy (Prete) to help him in his obsessive quest (Carlo stalked the man and eventually took some incriminating photos). Eventually Tommy and Carlo catch up to the original crooks, which results in Carlo receiving another beating, but afterwards Carlo comes up with a convoluted plan to finger the crooks and cause a public stir, along with forcing the police to crack down on criminal activity in general. Eventually the crooks force a showdown with Carlo, one they'll make sure he doesn't walk away from...
While this film was most likely inspired by the popular Charles Bronson feature Deathwish (1974), it tends to follow a slightly different route in that Nero's character spends an awful lot of time stalking criminals for the purpose of collecting information to report to the authorities in the hopes they'll actually act (Bronson's character actively sought out to deliver some hot-leaded justice). This results in Nero's character grousing constantly about how the authorities are ineffectual (apparently a common sentiment in Italy at the time) and espousing how the common man needs to stand up to the lawless (the Italians seem to like to spell out as much as possible for audiences), receiving numerous beatings, eventually turning on his attackers only when they forced his hand. As a result, the film starts off quickly, slows down in the middle, and then picks up again in the last twenty minutes or so...there's a whole lot of time spent as Carlo sets up Tommy so he can use him as an underworld source, along with their setting up the whole scheme to force the authorities to put pressure on the thugs. I did learn quite a few things, though, including the following...
1. Franco Nero's got spooky eyes.
2. When robbing a bank, it's advisable to keep the getaway car nearby as if you have to run a quarter of a mile to get to it, that only eats up valuable escape time.
3. In Italy you can be arrested for insulting a public official.
4. Italians don't seem to be adverse to smacking women upside the head.
5. Franco Nero sure does like to smoke.
6. In Italy you can be arrested for simulating a crime.
7. The lines painted on Italian roadways designating lanes seem to be there only for decorative purposes.
8. In Italy, three time losers (criminals who are caught and convicted three times, of felonies, I'm guessing), are sent to prison for life.
9. Franco Nero is a master of expressing shock and awe, even when it's unwarranted.
10. Getting shot in the meaty part of the thigh is apparently infinitely more painful than getting shot in the kneecap.
11. Beating someone repeatedly about the face with a shovel causes a lot less damage than I would have expected.
12. You can actually score film that runs an hour and forty minutes with only two bits of music played over and over again (although I wouldn't recommend it).
As far as the performances go, Franco Nero emotes the hell out of his role, for better or worse...I'm not a huge fan of actors wearing every emotion upon their sleeve, but at least it was entertaining. He does deserve a lot of credit for his athleticism as he seemed to really take to performing many of his own stunts, some of them appearing quite dangerous. As far as the rest, they did all right (for an Italian made crime drama), although I'm unsure what the point of Ms. Bach's character was other than to provide a pretty face and continually harp on Nero's character like his conscience come to life. Castellari does manage to keep things moving along (the first fifteen minutes are a blast) and overall I thought this an entertaining entry into the vigilante genre, I felt it could have done with a little less character development around the middle. This is the original version that played in Italy before it was transported to the states with some of the violent bits removed. I did like the theme song used in the film, but after hearing about thirty times it tended to wear a little.
The picture quality on this Blue Underground DVD release, presented in widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic looks decent, but does include some flaws. There is a grainy quality throughout, one that ranges from slight to heavy at times, but I dealt with it telling myself it sort of corresponded with the gritty and sometimes raw material. The audio, presented in Dolby Digital mono, is a little uneven at times (the music often blares, while some of the dialogue is difficult to hear during the quieter scenes), but all in all came through well enough. As far as extras there's a commentary track with director Enzo G. Castellari, a featurette titled `Laying Down the Law' (17:27) which includes current interviews with both director Enzo G. Castellari and star Franco Nero, the latter who seems to have aged better than expected, a theatrical trailer, and a television spot. While watching the interviews with Castellari and Nero (these two seem to love on each other quite a lot), there's a really funny bit where Castellari talks about working with Barbara Bach, basically stating that while she wasn't a great actress, at least she was punctual...