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Fernando Di Leo
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When a shipment of heroin disappears between Italy and New York, a small-time pimp in Milan is framed for the theft. Two professional hitmen are dispatched from New York to find him, but the real thieves want to get rid of him before the New York killers get to him to eliminate any chance of them finding out he's the wrong man. When the pimp's wife and daughter are murdered in the course of the "manhunt", he swears revenge on everyone who had anything to do with it. Written by
The Italian Connection is yet another movie that proves conclusively that Fernando Di Leo was the master director of the poliziotteschi. These action-thrillers were Italy's answer to the violent crime films that emerged in America in the early 70's. Di Leo made several and this one may very well be arguably the best. Its story is underpinned by a shipment of heroin that is stolen en route from Milan to New York. A couple of American mafia hit-men are dispatched to Italy to find and kill the pimp who is accused of the theft. This man is innocent of this crime, however, and he proves to be a surprisingly resourceful opponent.
One of the main strengths of this movie is its cast. Everyone suits their roles very well. Mario Adorf is particularly excellent as the pimp who becomes the unlikely hero. Adorf puts in a very energetic performance that really drives the film. Poliziotteschi veteran Henry Silva and Woody Strode are suitably mean as the mafia killers, seemingly their pairing was the reason Quentin Tarantino cast John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson as the legendary hit-men in Pulp Fiction (for this alone The Italian Connection deserves a footnote in film history). Rounding things off we have Adolfo Celi (Danger: Diabolik) as the mafia don and Femi Benussi (Hatchet for the Honeymoon) gets substantially naked in a role as a prostitute.
Like most of these types of movies there is a lot of moral ambiguity here. There are no heroes in the truest sense. The identification figure is a low level pimp after all. This makes it a crime film in the truest sense. But it is also a very good action flick. Of particular note is a spectacular chase sequence where a van fires through town with a man hanging off the front while head-butting his way through the windshield! There is, overall, a healthy dose of violent action in general in this one, climaxing in a great scene in a junk-yard.
Along with Milan Calibre 9 and The Boss, this is a top level example of this kind of movie from Fernando Di Leo.
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