Better-than-average Pasta taste of the Vietnam War
Antonio Margheriti is easily Italy's most prolific director of the 1980s. He has dabbled in every genre imaginable. His Vietnam action flicks of the 1980s, including "The Last Hunter", "Tiger Joe" and the title piece are pretty solid films. "Tornado" is a fair film in its own right, but doesn't hold a candle to the earlier pieces in the trilogy.
The plot resembles Peckinpah's "Cross of Iron" with little innovation, but isn't a rip-off in any way. In the final days of the Vietnam War, an unhinged American Captain (Antonio Marsina, "Leathernecks") sends his Green Berets on high-risk missions behind the lines. Sgt. Maggio (Giancarlo Prete, "The Assisi Underground") doesn't take kindly to his commander's attitude towards his men; when his friend dies because of the Captain's blundering, they get in a fight and Maggio winds up en route to the stockade. Well, he winds up escaping from the authorities and sets out across enemy territory to reach neutral Cambodia. Meanwhile, a reporter (Luciano Pigozzi, "Double Target" tries to expose the Captain's madness and save Maggio from his fellow troops, which are in hot pursuit.
Margheriti doesn't really do anything wrong in this film. It's a lack of good things and innovation that drags it down to an "average" status. The action sequences are cheaply staged and consist almost entirely of stock footage from "The Last Hunter". These shots are very well-integrated, but the action looks as though it is revolving around the old material. The musical score is okay and mood-fitting, but doesn't even come close to the "Last Hunter" score. And like "The Last Hunter" Margheriti again throws in a prisoner-of-war scene which totally apes the "Deer Hunter" bamboo cage sequence.
The one thing holding this movie together is a well-written script by the genius Tito Carpi ("Eagles over London") and Gianfranco Couyoumdjian and good acting to deliver the message. Prete is fantastic as Maggio; he's bitter and we always understand why. He's also tough, but with a sympathetic human side. We can relate to him; he's a man's man in a situation beyond his control which makes little sense. Marsina is even better as the maniacal Captain. He doesn't portray this officer as a full-blown lunatic. Instead, there's something quietly sinister about this man. The slight sneer in every expression. The quiet, level tone in every situation, no matter how intense or extreme. Marsina is simply brilliant. Finally, Luciano Pigozzi has a fair-sized part as the reporter, even if he doesn't get to do much except chew out both the Captain and Maggio for different reasons. He's got gusto and a real screen presence, even if he does look like some hillbilly from the swamps of Louisiana.
Unlike "The Last Hunter", Margheriti handles the story without an over-emphasis on its anti-war message. Although this is definitely an anti-war film (there are sentiments throughout and the ending will drive this theme home) it's handled in a realistic, straightforward way. The characters are fleshed-out naturally. The action scenes are believable, for the most part, and are meant to be taken realistically rather than symbolically. There's hardly any graphic violence and the profanity is sporadic. This is in no way an exploitative film, nor is it an allegory: it's a serious comment on the wasteful nature of the Vietnam War.
There are a number of memorable, stand-alone scenes throughout the picture. One, in which the Captain and his cohorts discuss finding Maggio - only to have him jump over their heads with a dirtbike - is simultaneously funny and grim. The discovery of a suicide and subsequent hand-to-hand fight is also very well-constructed.
"Tornado" is an un-original action piece with enough good performances and interesting situations to keep any war film fan engaged, though not on the end of their seat. Worth a look.
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