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I'm a tremendous fan of Italian Poliziotesschi movies (violent crime/detective thrillers) of the seventies, and seen so many of them that I modestly even daresay I'm an expert of the genre. That principally means that I know I should be skeptical when encountering a title that sounds entirely unfamiliar. The absolute highlights of this specific genre have long been identified and (re-)discovered already, and the chance there's still a hidden gem lurking beneath the surface is quite slim. But you never know, of course, and since the cast list of this "Covert Action" also contains no less than four interesting names, I really wanted to check it out. As secretly feared, the film is a giant waste of time and veteran director Guerrieri does not succeed in telling a half- interesting story or serving a few remotely exciting action sequences. The film has an impressive cast, as mentioned already, including names like Arthur Kennedy, Ivan Rassimov, Maurizio Merli (a natural born Poliziotesschi hero) and David Janssen. The latter depicts a former CIA-agent named Lester Horton who, after publishing a completely unsuccessful fiction novel, decides to base his next book on his own memoirs and factual CIA cases. This makes his old supervisor Maxwell (a badly ageing Arthur Kennedy) very nervous, and suddenly Lester and everybody in his surrounding are in lethal danger. Personally I never cared for David Janssen and I was much more interested in the characters of Italian heroes Merli and Rassimov. Their roles are regrettably downgraded to supportive ones, however. Merli plays a corrupt and heroin-addicted ex-colleague whose wife is having an affair with Janssen. If you ask me, it's fairly implausible to prefer a dull, fatigue and whiny writer over a vivid and fiery blonde deity like Merli, but whatever. Rassimov stars as Maxwell's henchman and his only task is to pop up everywhere and look menacing. Most of what's happening remains vague and largely unexplained for some reason and "Covert Action" doesn't contain any notably memorable moments. The entire film takes place in Athens, Greece, which results in a handful of beautiful filming locations, but that hardly justifies a recommendation.
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