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Charming movie. Fun and entertaining poliziottesco that doesn't take itself too serious. The Italian DVD is wide screen and includes the superior Italian dub (with English subtitles); don't see the American crappy DVD's that are out there. It also has nice extra's and even those are subtitled. Hail to Raro Video. The soundtrack is strange and original. And it works quite well. I wonder if it is out there on CD. The big name is of course Jack Palance, but my favorite character in the movie is Napoli, played by Vittorio Caprioli. Perhaps not one of Fernando Di Leo's best, but very entertaining indeed. Underrated by the IMDb-users, probably because of the horrible American DVD's.
Writer/director Fernando Di Leo chronologically made three of the most
stupendously amazing "Poliziottesco" (hardcore Italian cop/gangster
thrillers) milestones with "Milano Caliber .9", "La Mala Ordina" and
"Il Boss". I respectively granted those films with rating 10/10, 9/10
just to indicate how powerful and overwhelming they are. Di
Leo honestly was a brilliant but sadly underrated director who really
knew how to make hardcore-to-the bone action movies. There are no good
or loyal characters in Fernando Di Leo's depiction of the Italian
There are only vicious and emotionless gangsters that would
butcher their own parents in order to climb one small step up the
ladder of power & influence. Although nearly not as brilliant as the
aforementioned trio, Di Leo's later films keep featuring the same story
elements. "Rulers of the City" the literally translated title which I
vastly prefer over "Mister Scarface" is another mafia flick full of
ultra-sadistic characters, nasty double-crossings, merciless
executions, brutal bare-knuckle fistfights and explosive vendettas.
Tony is a smooth and handsome but insignificant guy who works as a debt collector for Luigi Cherico; the number #2 gangster boss of Naples. He wants to make an impression on his boss and ingeniously plunders 10 million Lire from the absolute biggest crime lord in town, the feared and relentless Scarface. Tony unwillingly evokes a mafia war in Naples and finds himself in between the two camps. Luckily he receives help from an elderly Mafiosi and a mysterious blond shooting expert with an old personal vengeance to settle. "Rulers of the City" has a well- written and fast-paced script, and all the fistfight battles and shootout sequences are exhilarating and brute. The film also benefices from neat camera-work and a terrific score provided by Di Leo's regular composer Luis Bacalov. Still, "Rulers of the City" suffers from two serious defaults that simply cannot be neglected. First of all, everything is done to make it seems like the entire film orbits around Jack Palance and his character Mr. Scarface, but his role honestly isn't that extended or fundamental. The DVD-cover image that I own illustrates Jack Palance looking bewildered and firing off a machine gun, but never at one point during this movie he takes the effort of even picking up a weapon. Secondly, what's with the homo-erotic undertones in this film? It isn't too abnormal that there generally aren't many female lead roles in Italian gangster movies, but this one exaggerates! The only women in this film are secretaries, prostitutes and walking eye-candy on the sidewalk. Furthermore the hints at homosexuality are downright bizarre and misplaced. The older Mafiosi Vincenzo Napoli is obviously gay, with his pink scarves and feminine gestures the entire time, but even the two lead actors could easily pass for a cute couple. Whenever they're driving around the city in Tony's flamboyant buggy, they look like an advertisement campaign for coming out of the closet and the only thing missing is a slogan on the bottom of the screen saying "it's okay to be gay".
"Rulers of the City" is enjoyable for fans of the Italian crime flick,
with a fast moving story and a sense of humour to let you know that
it's never taking itself too seriously. The actors are all good and the
film is effectively violent without ever getting very bloody. True
enough that it may not be all that believable, but it *is*
entertaining, if not memorable in the end. Director Fernando Di Leo was
prolific in this genre and the viewer may want to check out his other
works; they're available in DVD and Blu-ray box sets from Raro Video.
The amiable Harry Baer stars as Tony, a young debt collector who's tired of his go-nowhere job. So he hatches a scheme with aging mobster Napoli (Vittorio Caprioli) and his new friend Rick (Al Cliver of "Zombi 2") to con big time hood Manzari (Jack Palance) out of several million. Naturally, things don't work out the way that they want and they end up having to make a stand against Manzari and his goons.
It's enjoyable to see this international, familiar cast at work. Palance is convincing as the bad guy, the engaging Caprioli supplies a good deal of the comedy relief, Edmund Purdom (the dean in "Pieces") has a welcome presence as mafioso Luigi Cherico, the lovely Gisela Hahn provides the eye candy (and also sings some tunes), and Enzo Pulcrano is amusing as volatile jerk Peppi, who's out to get Tony. Co-scriptwriter Peter Berling also plays the role of Valentino in the film.
All in all, this is pleasant to watch, with a reasonably rousing action climax and an eclectic score by Luis Bacalov.
Seven out of 10.
I had first watched this on the big screen as part of the Italian
B-movie retrospective held during the 2004 Venice Film Festival (where
6 features by Di Leo were shown); back then, I didn't like it - rating
it ** and feeling that it was rather unbalanced by the vulgar comedy
relief (though typical of Italian films during this era), especially
when compared to the director's other relatively more sober stuff
(which had proved my first encounter with his work)!
Watching it again as part of a mini-tribute to its star, Jack Palance (who passed away recently), I found myself a lot more receptive to it; Di Leo dabbled most often in the crime genre and, as can be deduced from the title, this one falls into that category: the plot, dealing with a gang war (one faction controlled by Palance and the other by Edmund Purdom), is no great shakes but, at its centre is a revenge plan involving Palance and young misfit Al Cliver (whose identity is unknown to the 'boss'); this element gives it an undeniable edge, and the exciting climax takes place at a massive abandoned slaughterhouse - where an old betrayal and murder had taken place.
As is typical of the director, the action is pretty constant and always dynamic - aided by a fine eclectic score by Luis Enrique Bacalov; there's a discreet amount of nudity and, as I said, a slight overdose of comedy: however, as I watched more films by Di Leo (totaling nine so far), I realized that this was basically an idiosyncrasy of his (evident even in a straight melodrama such as LA SEDUZIONE ) but, in any case, I generally appreciated its style of humor now - especially when delivered by Di Leo regular Vittorio Caprioli (my favorite bit occurs towards the end, when he shoots the bad guys at close range with a bunch of guns he purchased for an eventual showdown but, constantly missing the mark, reasons to himself that the weapons must be defective and, therefore, he ought to return them and file a complaint to boot!).
Palance is suitably sinister and imposing - even if he probably spends more time being had, so to speak, than dishing it out! In the end, what's missing from the film vis-a'-vis Di Leo's other genre work is a strong hero (i.e. a credible opponent to Palance) in the vein of Gastone Moschin (from THE CONTRACT ), Mario Adorf (from THE Italian CONNECTION ) and Henry Silva (from WIPEOUT! )...
Fernando Di Leo's 1974 'Rulers of the City' is a delightful find among the gems of Italian cinema. The film is fast paced. It is, in hindsight, a gentle send up of the gangster genre. Remember took his treatment of spaghetti westerns to the urban turf, and, under all the grime and grit, he brings a comic turn. The cast is international: Harry Baer (Tony)is German; Jack Palance (Mr. Scarface)American; Al Cliver a Cairo-born Italian; and Vittorio Caprioli (Napoli) Italian. All things considered, it should come as no surprise that a German should appear in an Italian film. Remember, Visconti's casting of Alain Delon and his lover Helmut Schmidt. Italy was a haven for Americans: Italian directors brought out the hidden talent of some actors rarely seen in America. Richard Basehart in Fellini's 'la Strada'or Clint Eastwood who found an exit from a dead-end career in the US in Leone's spaghetti westerns as did Lee Van Clef. De Leo used well the image of Palance's face which incarnates the evil of loan sharks, and within he got an actor who could speak Italian. Baer brings the youthful elan of wanting to make it big and quick as a 'tax collector' though his fists and his intelligence. Cliver with a face of a fallen angel seeks revenge with a natural quickness and understanding of a finely tuned intelligence. And of course in Caprioli, he well used a finely turned the finely tuned sense of comedy and the wiliness of an old fox. The film opens up with a dreamlike sequence that as the quickly paced story is the key to its denouement. There is only one thing for you to do: rush out, find a copy of 'Rulers of the City', sit back and enjoy it!
I have to admit that I collected this one because it had Fernando di
Leo writing and directing, but got around to watching it because I just
couldn't fathom the way the reviews are love it/hate it. I still don't
get that. My best WAG is that the Italian and American releases are
*very* different. I watched the original Italian release with English
There are better ones in the genre, but only a bit so. It never failed in any important way, imho. Elements were really, really great. The location shots were divine. Sitting there with some venison bolognese and a glass of red wine, you could just *wallow* in some of the location scenery. For those with marginal Italian, it was one of the easiest to understand I've ever watched. Barely needed the subtitles. That's a good comment on it, compared with other Italian crime flicks. It's very straight ahead. Not so predictable as to be boring, but what you see is what you get and that's quite satisfying.
I thought the humor was well done, never over the top or distracting. And, unlike a lot of token crime film humor...it was funny. Every now and then you say, "Wait...how?...oh", but rather than being a continuity problem I thought that gave it a real-life kind of feel. Bits that would have been dragged out forever in most any movie, boom!, just happen, again giving it a real life effect. Other bits are drawn out. Well balanced, on balance, I thought.
So, I just don't understand the negative reviews on this one. It has to be that the American release is very different and really crap. Most the negative reviews I've seen have been in connection with the "Fernando di Leo Crime Collection" DVD. I collected all the ones on that release from the original Italian ones, so I don't know anything about it, but I'm thinking it could be a poor release of this movie. I'll stand by my opinion that there is nothing in the world wrong or not to like about the Italian release of this one. Light hearted at times, it's not lightweight by any stretch.
Rulers of the City does have a lot going for it. It does fall short of
being great, and Fernando Di Leo and Jack Palance have done better in
their respective careers, but this is not even close to being
career-worsts for either and is a very respectable film overall.
The locations are splendid, and the gritty roughness of the photography and clever (without being too much or too dizzying) camera angles capture it more than ideally. There is also a dynamite score, exhilarating action scenes (the final shootout being the prime example) and mostly above-decent direction, if in need of more tension in places. The script is tight and more light-hearted than Di Leo's Milieu trilogy, but it was light-heartedness and witty humour that didn't feel too misplaced, and the story is at least engrossing and swiftly paced on the most part.
Casting-wise, Rulers of the City is very much a mixed bag, with the best performances being from a sinister Jack Palance (though he was deserving of more screen time) and a lively and lots-of-fun, without being too clownish, Vittorio Napoli as the film's most colourful character. Harry Baer has some charming moments too and Giselda Hahn brings a little heart. Al Clivar however does show his limitations as an actor in a somewhat one-note performance and Edmund Perdum is rather stiff in an underwritten role.
Aside from a slow-motion dream-like opening sequence, that was quite striking if perhaps not necessary, Rulers of the City does take too long to get going and the story only really comes to life once Palance appears. The film was in need of more tension and suspense, and stronger writing for the villains (who were underutilised and never really developed, and this is including Palance's character) would have helped. The final shoot-out is great, but ends a little anti-climactically. And I do have to agree about the homo-erotic undertones and homosexuality hints being clumsily written and out of place, which did feel the film a bizarre feel at times.
Overall, respectable but could have been better. 6/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An OK Italian crime thriller from director Fernando Di Leo. Harry Baer is a low level collector for a mafia don who swindles a rival Mafioso (Jack Palance) out of some money. The rival wants revenge. Baer and his clever cohorts thwart Palance and his goons at every turn. Not exactly the action packed thriller you'd expect from Di Leo, but still fairly entertaining. Baer gives an energetic performance and most of the supporting players are great. Palance, who's top-billed though off screen much of the time, smokes and growls. He's called "Scarface" throughout (he has a pronounced scar over his left eye). The music by Luis Enriquez Bacalov is dynamite and the photography by Erico Menczer captures a particularly sunny Rome circa 1976. Edmund Purdom appears briefly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fernando Di Leo was responsible for a trio of absolutely great
poliziotteschi films Milan Calibre 9, The Boss and The Italian
Connection. All of them were dynamic and energetic with great
characters and inspired action. Unfortunately, Rulers of the City is
nowhere near as good and is a significantly lesser movie.
It's about a young, minor protection money collector who carries out a scam to steal 10 million lira from the city's top gangster leading to all-out gang war.
Jack Palance and Edmund Purdom are perhaps the biggest stars here. They both play the respective crime bosses and both are wasted in their roles to be perfectly honest. Purdom only gets to mope around for a bit and then is shot in the head, while Palance should really be a bigger, more threatening presence but he never is. He hovers in the background but never gets to assert his authority very much. The movie is promoted in a way that makes you believe that Palance is the big bad guy but he is killed off way before the end of the climax in a somewhat underwhelming scene. The final shoot-out sequence in the old slaughterhouse is pretty uninvolving in general. The bad guys are pretty hopeless throughout the movie. They are thwarted at every turn easily by the heroes who are three men in a dune buggy (great vehicle to drive around town in when you are trying to keep a low profile by the way). These guys never feel like they are ever under threat and as a result there is little suspense. There is additionally a revenge plot-line running concurrently. It begins with a slow-motion dream-like encounter from the past and the whole thing really reminded me of the sort of plot that you would find in a spaghetti western. But again, it isn't very well done and could actually have been removed entirely with little or no damage to the film at all.
Rulers of the City is a pretty mediocre Italian crime film. It pales by comparison to others in Di Leo's filmography.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a deception that straight to the garbage can crime flick.
Especially if you compare it to the other films made by this very
powerful director from the other side of the Alps. I usually see every
thing what Fernando Di Leo makes. Except maybe his very last film, or
nearly, in 1985, starring Henry Silva, that I have commented. But this
one is even worse. Even the final climax is totally awful. That's the
comedy touch that destroy everything here. I am not used to this in
Italian crime films. The actors are terrible, and not terrific...And
this feature lacks tragedy.
What a waste of time for this crap. I am lucky not to have seen many of this kind.
Forget it, avoid it at all costs.
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