Milano rovente (1973)
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Milan is the setting of a brutal and merciless war between Sicilian pimps lead by Salvatore 'Toto' Cangemi (Antonio Sabato) and the French drug mafia lead by the ruthless Roger Daverty (Phillippe Leroy). When the French attempt to violently force Toto into making his prostitutes deal with heroin, his violent response leads to a chain-reaction of brutalities...
Antonio Sabato isn't one of the greatest leading-men in Italian genre-cinema (and nowhere near as charismatic as other Lenzi-regulars, such as Tomas Milian, Henry Silva or Maurizio Merli). However, the role of the tough-minded Sicilian pimp suits him well, Toto is probably the most fitting role I have seen Sabato in so far. Philippe Leroy ("Milano Calibro 9", "Femina Ridens",...) is great for sinister, sleazy and villainous roles, and he therefore fits very well in his role here. The female cast members are entirely nice to look at. The beautiful Marisa Mell is great as always in her femme fatale role, and the relatively unknown Carla Romanelli makes a beautiful and good second female lead. The supporting cast includes the usual tough-guy faces that can be seen in all of Lenzi's crime flicks (Vittorio Pinelli, Tony Raccosta, etc.) The film is not quite as action-packed as Lenzi's following Poliziotteschi, but there is enough action and grit, and a variety of brutalities (the gruesome highlights being a nasty torture scene and the brutal treatment of the prostitutes by both sides of the war). The general treatment of women in the film is as misogynist as usual for the time, country and genre. The cinematography is great as in all Lenzi films. Carlo Rustichelli's jazzy score is cool enough, but not as captivating and adrenaline evoking as the scores to later Lenzi crime flicks (by Ennio Moricone or Franco Micalizzi). The fact that everybody in the film is a dirt-bag, and the lack of a truly diabolical villain (as Tomas Milian's Giulio Sacchi in "Milano Odia"), make the suspense level little less intense. Then again, a mob war should be dirt-bags vs. dirt-bags.
Overall, "Milano Rovente" is not as essential as Lenzi's later crime-highlights "Milano Odia: La Polizia Non Può Sparare" (1974), "Roma A Mano Armata" (1976), "Napoli Violenta" (1976) or "Il Cinico, L'Infame", Il Violento" (1977). However, it is definitely a highly recommendable film to genre fans, and arguably the basis of Lenzi's later status as the king of Poliziotteschi. 7.5/10
Most of the violence here is actually aimed at the prostitutes who get raped, beaten, have acid thrown in their faces, etc (although the testicles of one male character do suffer an unfortunate encounter with a car battery). The violence against women may be kind of turn-off for some, but it's also pretty standard for this genre. Marissa Mell is kind of wasted as the protagonist's gold-digging upper-class girlfriend, but the luscious Carla Romanelli (who played the sexy maid in "The Sensuous Nurse") is good as a sympathetic streetwalker.
The film is enjoyably amoral. The police are almost irrelevant, and the gangsters are all equally vicious and double-dealing (and all of them are perfectly willing to traffick drugs). This is not one of the great Italian polizieschi, but it's pretty fun if you like the genre in general like I do.
It has to be said that Milano Rovente is not a spectacular crime flick; especially when compared to Lenzi's other works. However, the film is notable for the way that it doesn't strictly adhere to the rules of the genre, and also for the fact that the interesting story is carried off with panache by a team of decent actors. Antonio Sabato is no Tomas Milian, but he carries the lead role off well in his authoritative role. Lenzi's crime flicks tend to be more violent than the rest of the pack, and this one doesn't disappoint in that respect as it features plenty of brutal scenes. There isn't a lot in the way of car chases, and it has to be said that the tone of the film is largely downtrodden throughout; unlike the majority of these types of films which tend to be largely quite fun to watch. It all boils down to a nice, and rather fitting, conclusion and while I can't say that Milano Rovente is one of the best films of its type - it certainly isn't a bad one, and fans of this sort of film are likely to enjoy it.
Because Gang War in Milan was directed by Umberto Lenzi, it's hard not to make comparisons with Lenzi's Almost Human. The problem is that if you've seen Almost Human, Gang War in Milan all but pales in comparison. Almost Human is, at least to me, something of a masterpiece of the genre. Lenzi got it right with the over-the-top, uber-violence. The level of action and violence in Gang War in Milan doesn't come close to that found in Almost Human. Furthermore, if you compare Antonio Sabato in Gang War in Milan with Tomas Milian in Almost Human, Milian easily comes out on top. Sabato is adequate in his role as the leader of the gang, but does not have the screen presence or magnetic personality of Milian. Even as Milian is committing some of the most heinous crimes imaginable, it's hard to dislike the man.
Based on what I've written so far, it almost sounds like I don't care for Gang War in Milan and that's not the case. Gang War in Milan is a reasonably entertaining example of the Italian crime drama. It's far from being the worst film of this type I've seen. The story is compelling, the film looks good, and overall the acting is very nice. The different plots and schemes the French and Italian gangs carry out against each other are quite ingenious. I was especially fond of the French gang dressing like cops and arresting and holding hostage all of the prostitutes. Good stuff. Also, there are some nice plot twists toward the end of the film that I never saw coming that make for a very satisfying conclusion. And, as a real big plus, Gang War in Milan features Marissa Mell.
I realize that I'm probably not being fair to Gang War in Milan because of my preference for Almost Human. If I had never seen that movie, I'm almost positive that my opinion of Gang War in Milan would be different.