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This is not a movie depicting the new Italian kingdom in the 19th century , it`s an absolutely true story about the struggle against the Sicilian Mafia. In 1925 Mussolini, who came to power 3 years ago, sent Cesare Mori/1872-1942/ to Sicily, as a police prefect, with the task of whiping the Mafia out.The Fascist regime was concerned about its power and influence, so the following 4 years entered the history as the time of the "Iron Prefect", who arrested and convicted over 2 000 mafiosi. His brave struggle ended in 1929, when he was dismissed and appointed senator in Rome, mainly because he attacked high-ranking Fascist officials, who were deeply involved with the Mafia. They proved to be too powerful to struggle against and Mori lost the war after winning so many battles /including the conviction of don Vito Cascio Ferro, the first known Capo di tutti Cappi/
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on a book by Arrigo Petacco, the movie focuses on the historical
figure of Cesare Mori (Giuliano Gemma), prefect sent to Sicily during
Fascism to fight the Mafia.
Mori, we learn, is not a Fascist himself - he had previously opposed the regime - but a stern man of law determined to see justice prevail.
After the brutal murder of a family Mori starts his fight, with direct and even extreme methods - often more of a war than a police operation (he has carte blanche). When the prefect and his men besiege a town which has become a bandits' stronghold, he leaves everyone without water, including women and children, until they surrender.
Gemma, star of many minor spaghetti westerns, gives a tight performance - probably the best of his career. He plays Mori as a steely man with a lot of righteous anger boiling under his cold facade. Stefano Satta Flores gives a vivid portrayal of his right-hand man. Claudia Cardinale has a minor, unnecessary role as a minor character - the subplot is not terrible, but it feels like it has been shoehorned in to give Cardinale something to do. Prolific composer Ennio Morricone wrote the soundtrack.
In the central part of the movie Mori's methods give miraculous results against low, violent crime. However, when he tries to tackle the higher spheres of the Mafia, he discovers their ties with important political figures. In the bitter epilogue, Mori attempts to open the can of worms nonetheless, only to be stopped by the same people who had given him his task.
"Il prefetto di ferro" (The Iron Prefect), also released as "I am the
law" is a first-class A-type production. It's an exceptionally
well-done historical biographical film. There was never an instant when
I did not feel that I was immersed in the period depicted (about 1925
to 1929). The location work in Sicily in the old villages and environs
is exceptional. For music, they turned to the first team, Ennio
This is based on a true story, explained in the wikipedia entry on Caesere Mori, and the movie is accurate in its recreation, of course dramatized. Giuliano Gemma plays the stern and determined policeman (Mori), given strong powers by Il Duce (Mussolini) and assisted by soldiers at his beck and call. But it took great understanding of psychology, clever strategy and personal courage to accomplish his many thousands of arrests as he went about cleaning up Sicily. The movie focuses on a few outstanding episodes in his career as well as depicting his ultimate frustrations as he found the mafia's political connections reaching so high that those above him felt threatened and kicked him upstairs to a senatorial office. The movie makes a point of showing that Mori was no fascist. He had to deal with their pomposity at several turns and did so diplomatically.
Giuliano Gemma is one of the best Italian actors of that time, or any time. He makes this evident here, but also in his spaghetti westerns. The following year, he was to play the opposite role, equally convincingly, as a mafioso in the movie "Corleone".
This is not a thriller or a suspense movie, although it has its share of tension. Each challenge that Gemma meets is interesting in the way he overcomes the difficulties. The movie seems to run somewhat long after awhile. The inherent interest of the subject matter, however, and the meticulous recreation keep it going.
It's difficult to find this movie but it's the only one that talk about the
fight of the new italian kingdom against the "briganti" (street criminals)
at the end of 19° century.
Pasquale Squitieri used a little ancient town to realize a very difficult movie about a strange period of italian history.
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