|Index||7 reviews in total|
The storyline is the Italians vs. the French. More accurately, the Italian pimps vs. the French drug pushers. Antonio Sabato stars as Salvatore Cangemi, Milan's biggest pimp who refuses to get in the drug trade with some French gangsters. Ah, a pimp with standards. Of course, this is what makes MILANO difficult. How can one root for a guy who repeatedly degrades/beats women and smacks around people because "the English language annoys him" at a bar? The film is interesting to watch in that it is Umberto Lenzi's first crime/mafia film. Up until this point, Lenzi had done westerns, gladiator films, spy films and a couple of giallo but nothing this focused on Italy's crime element (unless you count KRIMINAL). This comes off as a blue print for his later works. I wonder if Lenzi gauged what audiences liked the most and least from this film and infused them into his next entries. It is a theory that may hold some water because just a year later he would deliver ALMOST HUMAN, his Italian crime classic.
Salvatore "Toto" Cangemi(Antonio Sabato) is a sicilian who has made it big in Milan as a crime boss, his area being prostitution. He is approached by a French crime boss know as "Le Capitaine" he wants to go into business with Toto using his hookers to sell his drugs, only problem is the French aren't giving Toto much of an option. He decides against it and this leads to a big gang war, with tit for tat killings and Toto's hooker being beaten and kidnapped. Toto's second in command Lino Carruzzi, proposes getting his American crime boss uncle "Billy Barone" involved, Toto has little option but to agree in order to save his business. Highly un pc film, that denigrates women all over the place, promotes racial stereotypes and its also homophobic, despite this its an entertaining ride, there's even time for Toto to have some liaisons with the mysterious Jasmine ( .but underused Marisa Mell). The violence is as you'd expect with Lenzi quite violent with breast slashings galore and even some genital electrocution nice! Carlo Rustichelli's jazzy score is nice but a little overused.
Along with Fernando Di Leo (and Damiano Damiani, whose films are
different and more sophisticated), the great Umberto Lenzi, master of
many Italian cult-genres, is the undisputed king of the
Poliziotteschi/Italian Crime genre. While his 1973 mob war film "Milano
Rovente" aka. "Gang War in Milan" does not reach the greatness of some
of his later genre achievements (above all the masterpiece "Milano
Odia: La Polizia Non Può Sparare" aka. "Almost Human"/"The Kidnap of
Mary Lou" of 1974), this is yet another gritty, hard-boiled and very
entertaining flick that should not be missed by genre-fans.
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
"Gang Wars in Milan" is Umberto Lenzi's worthwhile and compelling imitation of "The Godfather" in Italy during the 1970's this type of films got labeled as the "Poliziottesco" about the rivalry and battle between Sicilian pimps and French drug dealers. The drug barons are putting severe pressure on the sly and sleazy Salvatore "Toto" Cangemi, who practically has a monopoly over the prostitution network in Milan, to have his hookers sell heroin. The greedy French wolves also demand 70% of the profit, so you can image Toto refuses. The "negotiations" rapidly run out of hand, with some car-bombs left, some drug labs getting destroyed right and a handful of prostitutes being mutilated center, and gradually escalate into a devastating gang war. So, basically, what I've learned from this film is the actual definition of a mafia partnership: they start a war over 20% and when they finally do reach an agreement, all they do is double-crossing each other! "Milano Rovente" isn't the most spectacular of Italian crime epics of the 70's, as there are reasonably few car chases and violent shootouts on display, but it's nevertheless a solidly scripted and professionally acted atmosphere-driven thriller. There are some excellent plot twists to keep you interested throughout and the bit of cruelty (especially towards women) are quite hard to stomach. The film may lack some essential Poliziottesco aspects, like a dazzling soundtrack and ultra-psychopathic characters, but it was definitely a terrific predecessor to Umberto Lenzi's ultimate crime masterpiece "Almost Human".
As other reviewers have said this Umberto Lenzi "polizieschi" really
pales compared to the director's earlier "Almost Human", which was one
of the best of the entire genre, and Anthony Sabato is indeed a poor
substitute for the great Tomas Milan. But this one does have its
moments. This movie is about a "gang war in Milan" (the English title)
between Sicilian pimps and French-connection drug dealers. The leader
of former group (Sabato)brings in another menacing Sicialian godfather
"Billy Barone" (Alessandro Sperli, who gives by far the best
performance here) who ultimately turns out to be an even bigger threat
than the "Frenchies".
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Salvatore Cangemi (Antonio Sabato) is the head of an Italian crime
family and the biggest pimp in Milan. When a French mobster wants to
use Cangemi's girls to traffic his drugs, Cangemi refuses. The
Frenchman doesn't take this lightly and moves in on the Milan territory
by recruiting some of Cangemi's girls behind his back. It's not long
before the two men and their entire organizations are involved in an
all out gang war for control of Milan.
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.
Umberto Lenzi made some of the best Italian crime films with films like
The Cynic, The Rat and The Fist and Almost Human, and part of the
reason why these films were so successful was due to the presence of
one of Italy's finest actors - the great Tomas Milian. This film
doesn't feature the immense talents of Mr Milian, although it's not all
bad news as Lenzi has still managed to put together a pretty damn good
little crime thriller. As most of these films take a lot of influence
from the masterpiece Dirty Harry, many of them focus on police officers
- but this one puts its focus on criminals. The main character is a
fruit vendor who makes most of his money through pimping prostitutes.
His lucrative racket is interrupted one day when a French drug dealer
decides that he wants to go into business with the pimp, using the
whores to push his drugs. However, our pimp isn't happy with that,
which is a problem as the French drug dealer isn't happy with people
saying no to him, and so sets about trying to find ways to force the
pimp to work with him.
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.
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