I’m indebted to Trailers from Hell, John Lucas, and specifically his niece for a wonderfully incisive comment on this film; yes, it’s a fact that the main characters somehow manage to do neither of the two things mentioned in the title over the entire 90 minutes. But man, do Tony (Ray Lovelock) and Fred (Marc Porel) do everything else imaginable in Ruggero Deodato’s spiffy crime Poliziotteschi, kicking ass, taking names and making Rome’s criminals feel it’s just not worth the effort. With the beats of the story running briskly through beatings, chases, fights, and killings in scene after relentless scene, these guys make John Wick look like a slacker as they rip without mercy through the lower and upper echelons of the Italian crime scene.
Poliziotteschi rock. They were a brief but pungent sub-genre that followed on from the success of the spaghetti western; specifically imitating the success of Dirty Harry, The French Connection and other US classics, they amped up the style, the violence, and the red meat quota. At the time, the public wanted to see a fantasy world where the good guys demolished the opposition with extreme prejudice, with stars like Franco Nero and Maurizio Merli righting the societal wrongs that lurked in the public psyche.
Dress Like the World’s Most Flamboyant Hairdresser, Kill Absolutely Everyone would be a more accurate title here; we’re talking about a world where a handbag snatching escalates to murder within seconds, or a blind man’s guide dog gets casually mown down by escaping crims. And that’s just in the first few minutes, as Tony and Fred take down a motorcycle gang of bank robbers before they’ve even had time to start robbing a bank in this shoot-first-ask-questions-never amoral universe. Their boss, (Adolfo Celi from Thunderball) gives them tips, the boys cause as much chaos as is required to get the bad guys to show their hand, then it’s full throttle big men, big guns and instant justice until the all-smiles ending.
Genre king Fernando Di Leo was amongst the writers here, and the late, great Franco Citti (Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life) has an intense villianous role. But despite the grit, Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man is a remarkbably breezy affair, with jaunty pop on the soundtrack and some amazing threads for the main characters amongst the screeching tyres.
If you feel that action cinema has lost its way in the CGI era, the Poliziotteschi genre offers a bottomless pit of tough, handsome guys, snivelling grease-ball villians, hell-for-leather action and amazing location work; you can literally taste the fresh air of Rome circa 1975 in this lovely print on Prime. It’s amazing that while Tarantino has refrenced, lifted music cues and paid tribute to the genre, he’s never actually made a Poliziotteschi film, but hopefully he’ll get that sorted before he calls it quits. If you were to ask me what movie Cliff Booth would probably watch in his spare time, Live Like A Cop, Die Like a Man would be my best guess; like the central duo, it takes no prisoners whatsoever.