Violent City (Citta Violenta)
Aka: The Family
Italy - 1970
Director – Sergio Sollima
Blue Underground, 2008, DVD
I picked up this movie simply because my boy is in it. Before I got a chance to watch it though, I discovered the soundtrack at Manchester Morgue, and found out that it was done by none other than Ennio Morricone. The music is so damn good I knew the movie would be too and I was downright anxious to watch this thing.
Sailing around on an expensive looking watercraft, and wasting no time at all, Jeff (Bronson) gets busy with the very very attractive Vanessa (Jill Ireland, who as we know by now, was actually his wife). Later during the credits Jeff and Vanessa wander around the city while a menacing hidden observer takes surveillance photos of them. Normally this might not warrant much notice but in this case largely thanks to Morricone, the credits are quite good and ratchet up the tension quite well.
Debarking from a plane the couple take a car but are soon being followed. Jeff drops the hammer to try and escape, a little bit hard to believe with the painfully fake overlay of passing roadway in the oddly static windows but we’ll take what we can get with Bronson at the wheel. Jeff drops Vanessa off and tries to lead the pursuers away but the car gets boxed in. In the subsequent shootout, Jeff manages to kill all his attackers despite being shot himself, but lands in an Italian jail with a couple of typically hyperbolic oddballs (thank the Italian talent for subtlety). An excuse it would seem to philosophize obtusely about the killer mentality with one of his cellmates and drop a little back story in the form of a flashback; that seductive mistress of plot development so many covet but so few can satisfy. We’ll see how this illicit relationship pans out in Citta Violenta.
The remarkably similar strange and distressing relationship between Jeff and Vanessa may be a clue. Back on the streets at last, Jeff tracks down Coogan, the man who shot him and Vanessa who it is now revealed, (again in a flashback) got into Coogan’s car during the gunfight.
Jeff will spend the rest of the film repeatedly torn between the ample and unquenchable ivory flesh of Vanessa and her absolutely inextinguishable desire to sell his ass out to every possible rung of the criminal hierarchy right on up to Jeff’s employer the head of the crime family, Weber played by a grinning Telly Savalas who seems to be having a lot of fun. Fortunately, as the accumulation of flashbacks (usually a dire sign) piled ever upward, Jeff began to grasp the breadth of Vanessa’s betrayal at about the same time I did. Jeff is a prisoner of his own lifestyle, mistrustful (rightfully I might add), unable to stop thinking like a killer, and unable to keep his mind off of Vanessa. (the quintessential and stereotypical sex/violence male dilemma) I’ll admit, I felt a little lecherous myself every time she was on screen wearing nothing but a smile and a conveniently placed piece of foreground scenery. Despite his severe reservations, as the intrigue is laid bare Jeff seems to come to terms with the confines of his own emotional prison, taking the final measure in an awesome climax that fairly neatly sets all those flashbacks in line and makes one hell of an imperfect movie.Looking back across 40(!) years it’s easy to say that this is a pretty basic premise; professional killer wants to retire but his boss won’t let him. But even if the editing is a little to artsy for its own good, the film is still really good looking and just manages to keep its head above the tide of time-changes.
Violent City is available from Netflix.