"Outlaw", written and directed by Enzo Monteleone
(the screenwriter of the Oscar-winning "Mediterraneo"), demonstrates that hostage negotiation plots are no less popular abroad than here. The film doesn't compare in quality to the standard bearer of the genre, "Dog Day Afternoon", but it is an engaging and entertaining effort refreshingly free of heavy-handedness. It is receiving its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York's Film Forum.
The film is based on a portion of the autobiography of Horst Fantazzini
, Italy's so-called "gentleman bandit" of the 1960s, a bank robber armed with a toy gun and known both for his excessive politeness -- he once sent flowers to a bank teller who fainted with fear during her ordeal -- and his revolutionary zeal. He's the kind of crook who's fond of quoting Brecht's maxim, "It is more criminal to found a bank than to rob one."
In 1973, during Italy's holiday season, Fantazzini (appealingly played by Stefano Accorsi
) made one of his many attempts to escape from jail, this time using a real gun. The attempt went awry and, holding two guards as hostages, he attempted to negotiate his way out. During this daylong ordeal, he must also endure phone calls from his anarchist father, who berates him for his stupidity, and the prison's warden, who mostly complains about being forced from his beach vacation.
Although it has its tense moments, the film mainly concentrates on depicting the affable nature of its unique hero and delineating the emotional interplay between him and his agreeable but frightened captives, as well as the frenzied communications between the various levels of state bureaucracy trying to end the crisis. The screenplay is deft and clever without being particularly resonant or deep, and one can often feel the filmmaker struggling to find a coherent tone somewhere between farce and tragedy.
Ultimately, like its central character, "Outlaw" mainly comes across as confused.
Adriana Chiesa Enterprises
Credits: Director: Enzo Monteleone; Writers: Enzo Monteleone
, Angelo Orlando; Producer: Gianfranco Piccioli; Executive producer: Mino Barbera; Director of photography: Arnaldo Catinai; Editor: Cecilia Zanuso;
Music: Pivio De Scalzi, Aldo De Scalzi
. Cast: Horst Fantazzini: Stefano Accorsi; Lance Corporal Di Gennaro: Giovanni Esposito; Brigadiere Lo Iacono: Emilio Solfrizzi; Wife: Fabrizia Sacchi; Assistant public prosecutor: Antonio Catania. No MPAA rating. Color/stereo. Running time -- 95 minutes.