I’ve written before about the super-culty genre of hardboiled Italian crime movies from the 70’s known as Poliziotteschi; it’s been a nice surprise to find that readers were keen to know more. In the wake of Dirty Harry, The Godfather and The French Connection, Italian cinema raced to create their own urban action, fast, immoral and violent. Seen at the time as disposable, these Saturday night specials have influenced Tarantino and others, but have also been frustratingly hard to come by on digital formats, so it’s something of a pleasure to see Sergio Martino’s balls-to-the-wall Silent Action hitting our home-screens this week thanks to the Fractured Visions imprint.
There’s a specific good reason for looking at this movie right now; it deals with a coup d’etat, and takes inspiration from the Borhese Coup in 1970, which saw right-wing fascist elements try and take control of Italy; any similarity between this and Trump’s attempt to circumvent the US electoral process to the needs of his own undisclosed masters is history’s cruel joke. Inspector Giorgio Solmi (Luc Merenda) is the debonair street-cop featured here, kicking ass and taking names. As with the modern US counterpart, sex-traffiking is central to the corruption here; Solmi investigates a madam whose girls are connected to a series of murders. Having tracked down the escort, Soli is led to Captain Mario Sperli, played by Thomas Milian, who seems to know more than he’s saying. Can Solmi figure out what the conspiracy is before his hidden enemy can stop his investigation?
Silent Action fortunately skips the burlesque quotient which often ruins a good Poliziotteschi; this is straight-up action, with a dazzling, dangerous-looking car-chase just when the narrative needs a lift. The clothes, the photography, the hair, the cod-Morricone soundtrack (by Luciano Michelini), all the elements are there, with the added edge of relevance. As well as interviews with Merenda and Martino, the blu-ray comes with a 55 minute documentary on The Age of Lead, and Silent Action is a good example of the kind of raw meat that was popular back in the 70’s. Rémy Julienne handles the car action, and there’s also a strong helicopter scene; the lack of CGI is a big plus on these films, which look like they were made with some disregard to what could be allowed on a film set.
From the opening decapitation by freight train onwards, Silent Action has the mad moves which make for a great retro watch; manly as all get out, but also with plenty of eye candy for the ladies in the form of the gorgeous Merenda, ably supported by imported star Mel Ferrer. Silent Action is a good introduction to the Eurocrime genre, and an educational one for those keen to see the kind of conditions under which fascism seeks to take control of our lives. A typically downbeat ending indicates that the battle didn’t end in the 70’s, and from all accounts, the fight against fascism is still going on today.
Silent Action is out now on blu-ray in the UK.
Thanks to Fractured Visions for access to this film. Link and trailer below.