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Well-handled power struggles of new Mafia John Saxon vs old Arthur Kennedy
It would be a mistake to pass up this solid Mafia story set in Palermo mainly and with a few scenes in New York. The old capos have a way of doing things, a code, and rules of the game that keep the peace. But they cannot pass the culture on to the young, who have their own ideas, who are more impetuous and impatient, and who want more money.
Arthur Kennedy heads the Ferrante family and he has several sons. John Saxon heads no family but he is ambitious and wants to be a capo. He wants a piece of land owned by one of Kennedy's sons, Stefano. Saxon will break any rules. He has Stefano killed and intends to kidnap his wife (Agostina Belli) to get her signature on the deed. Kennedy keeps the peace nonetheless. This does no good as Saxon makes further inroads, tricking Belli and her bodyguard. That's for starters. The story weaves its way onwards. Some of it may seem familiar, but most of it is not. There are a good many surprises along the way, and it is not clear who will be left standing or for those who will not, how they will meet their end.
The script is literate. There are several long monologues delivered by Saxon and Kennedy before a meeting of all the capos in which their ideas are spelled out very clearly. Their differences reflect the inroads in the non-criminal world of the nihilistic and materialistic as opposed to some sort of idea of justice even among criminals.
The directing is sound, using the camera placements and locations skillfully to augment the predicaments experienced by the characters.
Saxon plays a hothead effectively, but Kennedy, always a fine actor, might actually steal the show at times with his portrayal of a don who is trying to hold to the old ways, if erroneously, and is frustrated doing so. He has to be questioning his entire life.
This film held my attention throughout. It was a bit episodic in switching its focus from one subset of characters to another. Eventually it settles on the oldest (I think) of Kennedy's sons, Luca (Spiros Focas), who is intent on getting Saxon's character who has the name Gaspare Adizzone. He returns from New York with that goal in mind.
The tone and style of this film are not at all like "The Godfather". This doesn't have a romantic air about it and doesn't have romantic music themes. It is faster moving. There are no extended scenes of family life or other such diversions. Scenes are in the film to make a point about character or theme as well as to advance the story. There are no police in the film at all.
This is a very good euro-crime movie.
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