Free Hand for a Tough Cop


‘…a smart, aggressive slice of mid-70’s action cinema…’

A new blu-ray release from the Fractured Visions imprint, Umberto Lenzi’s Free Hand for a Tough Cop is another great example of one of my favourite genres, the poliziotteschi. Hardboiled, generally hard AF, these movies reflect the volatile political climate of Italy in the 1970’s, and are interesting for sociological reasons; they’re also kick ass action movies that make John Wick look like The Care Bears in Wonderland, and are essential purchases for those who like their steak raw…

In a narrative that couldn’t be less PC if it tried, mean-machine Brescianelli (Henry Silva) has kidnapped a little girl who needs urgent medical treatment; she’ll die if the cops can’t get to her, and fast. Inspector Sarti (Claudio Cassinelli) is on the case, and quickly springs informant Garbage Can (Tomas Milian) out of the slammer. In his shaggy beard, denim jacket and and Jesus sandals, Garbage Can is a snitch, but not without morals, and he convinces a group of hardened crims, fresh from a disastrous train/helicopter heist, to help him work his way through wave after wave of underworld goons in a race against time…

From the get-go, Lenzi burns through style and ideas at a prodigious rate; the opening scenes are a Western, which turns out to be big-screen entertainment for Garbage Can and his fellow inmates in jail. That playfulness continues throughout, with lots of detailed scenes; there’s a gang that hide bricks inside Kleenex boxes and use them to smack cinema cashiers in the melon. I’ve checked with the experts, and still have no answer to who brings a box of hankies to a screening of Tinto Brass’s Salon Kitty anyway? Garbage Can wears more eye-liner than Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, and is a similarly unexpected character; the scene in which he delivers complex medical assistance to the girl during the final shoot-out is deep blue hero stuff, even if most of the characters featured here are of dubious pedigrees.

Oddly, Free Hand for a Tough Guy bears multiple resemblances to Ridley Scott’s All The Money in the World, and that’s no bad thing; Garbage Can and his pals mow their way through dozens of deaths in their quest to save one, and that lack of moral balance feels right for the nihilistic mood here. There’s tonnes of gunplay and chases, strangely jocular good humour and a feel-good ending, rare for the genre. Free Hand for a Tough Cop is a smart, aggressive slice of mid-70’s action cinema, and should be heartily recommended for genre fans.

Fractured Visions presents Free Hand for a Tough Cop on Blu-ray 29 November


Leave a Reply
  1. Had a look at this on youtube thanks to your review. Certainly has its fill of action and the low-life criminals make it interesting. Italy was awash with these gangster pictures in the 60s and 70s while we Brits could only come up with a handful – what gives?

    • I guess British political instablity was small fry compared to what Italy went through, I guess films like Siting target and The Squeeze are as far as we got. The Italians did this kind of thing with real swagger, and this is a good example…

  2. You keep “almost” getting me with your recent movies but then one fateful sentence always seems to bring it crashing down.

    I mean, who wants to watch a movie filled with actors of dubious pedigree? I expect only the highest pedigreed actors in the movies I watch. If their official Actors Pedigree Card isn’t in the credits, it doesn’t exist.

  3. I dunno. The Care Bears in Wonderland was kind of raw.

    Not sure if “underworld good” is a mistake or if I’m missing something. Grammar in the Kleenex box sentence breaks down. Than not that Johnny Depp.

    Please remit all payments to Alex Good Creative Writing & Editing Services.

Leave a Reply