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Antonio Sabato takes aim at being a crime boss while working for Telly Savalas
"Crime Boss" starts off in Sicily with two members of the Sicilian Mafia, a boss and a lesser member, Anthony Sabato, who has never flown in an airplane. His father was a Mafioso too, who had been double crossed and killed. Sabato flies to Milan to do a "job", which is an assassination. He stays on in order to rise in the organization.
This is not a police story. Police are nowhere to be seen. This is a story of getting ahead in a crime family. It's a story of what it's like to be in a crime group. It's a story of what one sacrifices to get ahead and become a crime boss.
Telly Savalas runs the family, and he's suspicious of Sabato, who uses an elaborate ruse to show Savalas how capable he is. He takes Sabato in as his protégé, but he has friction with the other bosses that Sabato knows and has left behind in Sicily. This places Sabato in a ticklish situation.
The first sequence showing his arrival and the assassination, followed quickly by how he insinuates himself with Savalas, these are well done. This momentum is pretty well kept up as Sabato progresses. He works closely with his brother, who had previously been a pimp.
Telly has a niece, who is a closet Mafioso herself. She falls for Sabato, after some initial resistance. One is reminded of the Medicis and Lucretia Borgia.
I take the story seriously, because it raises many questions about working for a crime family. The basic issue of trust comes up constantly. Sabato, even upon his arrival, already distrusted the motives for his being brought into Milan. The issue of being manipulated comes up, and being double crossed. The issue of revenge for old wounds and killing comes up. Imagine working in a situation where no one can be trusted at the root. It is like that in many situations in government, corporations, universities, and even families. It is perhaps even worse in a Mafia type organization, but that is circumvented to some extent by the enforcing of rules laid down by the bosses. The boss needs to have his soldiers, but he also has to control them. He can use their initiative, but he cannot let it go too far. Friendliness and good relations are often pretended. Whom can one trust? If one is plotting against others, it has to be assumed that they are plotting against you. Who wants to live such a life? In this story, Telly and Sabato feel love for one another, like father and son, but that has to take second place to their ambitions. It as if they are caught on a treadmill and cannot get off. It is the life they have chosen.
Sabato is effective by being low-key and suspicious, while revealing little by his face and eyes. That is as it should be. Telly gets over in a different way, which is by his charm and a capacity to disarm others with words. Sabato uses his sincerity, his projection of loyalty and steadfastness.
There is no glorification of the criminal life in this movie. There is no riotous living off of ill-gotten gains. The life styles are not extravagant. Instead, there are constant problems and pressures, and quite high risks of injury and death.
The movie is entertaining, but basically serious. Telly provides levity at times, as he often does in his films. This doesn't alter the film's basic thrust.
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