While I don't consider myself to be an expert on World Cinema, I've been known to indulge in a foreign film from time-to-time. Looking back over the foreign films that I've watched, many came from Italy. Along with the requisite Dario Argento shockers and Lucio Fulci stinkers (sorry Fulci fans), I've watched plenty of gialli, horror movies, suspense films, and the unclassifiable jungle cannibal movies. However, I haven't seen many (if any) dramas from Italy. La Scorta introduced me to the world of Italian crime dramas, and I have to say, I miss the jungle cannibal movies.
La Scorta takes place in the town of Trapani, Sicily, where a local judge and his bodyguard have been murdered. Police officer Angelo Mandolesi (Claudio Amendola), a native of Trapani, returns home to take a job as a bodyguard for the new judge, Michele de Francesco (Carlo Cecchi). Mandolesi is joined on the job by fellow bodyguards Andrea Corsale (Enrico Lo Verso), Fabio Muzzi (Ricky Memphis), and Raffaele Frasca (Tony Sperandeo). These four men have been charged with proteting Judge de Francesco, equipped with unreliable cars and only two bullet-proof vests. As the Judge undertakes an investigation into a situation in which the Mafia is controlling the water in Trapani, threats against his life begin. The bodyguards, who are already under a great deal of stress, assist the Judge in his investigation, placing everyone in harm's way.
One of the pitfalls of viewing a foreign film is that a knowledge of that country's culture, lifestyles, politics, and religion may be necessary in order to understand the movie. Another consideration relates to the tones of foreign films. Those weaned on Hollywood movies may not understand that every movie in the world doesn't have the same sort of pacing as American films. These two factors play into La Scorta, which reveals itself to be a slow-paced film which apparently requires a rudimentary knowledge of politics in Sicily.
La Scorta is first and foremost a drama, as it focuses on the struggles of the Judge against well-financed criminals and the mundane yet dangerous jobs of the bodyguards. However, while watching the film, it's clear that it wants to have the suspenseful elements of a thriller. And in the beginning, it does. We are told that the Judge could be a target and that the bodyguards are under-prepared for an attack, thus giving the impression that something will happen. And yet, it doesn't...not for over an hour at least. When an act of violence finally does occur, it's telegraphed from a mile away and anyone who's ever seen a movie dealing with organized crime will know exactly what's about to happen. Despite the fact that the film features many scenes in which men in sunglasses brandish guns, that one scene is the only violent one in the film. Thus, the audience reaches a plateau with the suspense, and once nothing happens for a great deal of time, the viewer becomes quite numb, not to mention bored.
The lack of action in La Scorta wouldn't necessarily condemn the film if it had anything interesting to say. The story is all over the place, and once again, a knowledge of Sicilian politics must be required. Throughout the film, many names of characters and titles (such as Senator) are thrown about while the audience has little frame of reference for what is happening. I can only assume that the Italian dialogue was translated literally, as the "Judge" doesn't have the same job as an American judge and the character is also referred to as a "prosecutor" at times. (This makes things somewhat confusing.) That aside, the story has an opportunity to be interesting, but the faceless enemy is a bit too vague and the crime involved (the water shortage) is hard to grasp. The central idea of the Judge who faces insurmountable odds and his bodyguards could have made for an entertaining movie, but the characters are far too stereotypical and underwritten. We've got the family man, the angry loner, the "guy who doesn't want to be there", and we never learn much about their motivations. There's a female character who is clearly an old acquaintance of Mandolesi who drifts into two scenes with no introduction.
Inspired by the true story of Judge Francesco Taurisano, La Scorta could have taught me a lot about crime and corruption in Sicily while being an exciting film. But, the underwritten script and slack pacing make for a movie which misses the mark.
La Scorta comes to protect DVD courtesy of Blue Underground. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp, but a close inspection shows a minute amount of grain on the picture. An even closer inspection reveals that the grain leaves an almost "streak-like" appearance on the image. The colors are good for the most part, although they do look drab in some scenes. A few shots are overly dark, but background information shows that this was probably due to the shooting conditions. The image shows some minor traces of artifacting issues, but nothing major.
The La Scorta DVD features the original Italian dialogue track in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The dialogue is clear and audible and there is no discernible hissing or distortion on the track. The stereo effects are nicely done and well-place and the sound of the city and musical cues make for good surround sound action. Save for the one "action" scene, there's not much subwoofer action on the track. The English subtitles are easy to read.
The extras on the La Scorta DVD are kicked off by an Audio Commentary featuring director Ricky Tognazzi, producer Claudio Bonivento, and Blue Underground head honcho Bill Lustig. Lustig keeps things moving along in the talk with many well-timed questions. (Although, I could have done without his gushing comments.) These questions keep Tognazzi and Bonivento talking about the story behind the film, the actors, and the locations and they offer some interesting tidbits. However, both can be difficult to understand at times. "Judging La Scorta" is a 26-minute featurette which offers insight into the making of the film. Through interviews with Tognazzi, Bonivento, as well as actor Claudio Amendola, co-writers Graziano Diana & Simona Izzo, and cinematographer Alessio Geisini we learn about the historical perspective of the film, as well as the real-life individuals who inspired the story. The speakers also talk about budget restraints and what it was like to shoot on location. The extras are rounded out the U.S. and Italian trailers for the film.
La Scorta took home five awards from the Italian equivalent of the Oscars, so evidently audiences and critics in Italy were taken with the film. However, I found it to be a flawed work which introduces an intriguing subject, but then can't close the deal.