Directed by Ruggero Deodato before he'd secure his place in Italian movie history with Cannibal Holocaust, 1976's Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man begins with a fantastic scene in which two cops, Tony (Ray Lovelock) and Fred (Marc Porel), chase a couple of would-be thieves through the streets of busy Rome in the middle of the afternoon. Eventually they get their men, but they sure do make a big mess doing it, something they seem to have a recurring problem with and a trait that consistently lands them in hot water with 'The Boss' (Adolfo Celi), a tough top cop who always comes close to reprimanding them for their reckless ways but inevitably looks past their indiscretions as he knows that their 'whatever it takes' attitude helps keep crooks off of the streets.
After a few minor busts here and there and after making time with the Boss' sexy secretary, our men head out to capture or take down a high ranking mobster named Pasquini (Renato Salvatori). They're going to have their work cut out for them and will have to use some morally questionable tactics to get the job done, but these guys are tough and will do what they have to, regardless of who gets in the way.
Deodato's film starts off with a bang. The opening chase scene is fantastic and sets the bar incredibly high for the rest of the film and while it may not always operate on that high adrenaline level it starts off with, it is a consistently engaging and exciting film with some pretty rock solid action set pieces. Lovelock and Porel make a great team together, playing off of one another (or are they trying to outdo each other?) for the attention of the camera and in turn the audience, each as suave, handsome and tough as the other. Some (unintentionally?) homoerotic scenes add some bizarre humor to the movie - our two cops live together and parade around in red Speedo-style briefs but their heterosexuality is confirmed, albeit with the most unusual of confirmations in a scene where they basically interrogate a horny female informant by screwing her one at a time. We're told she's insatiable but after our pair of Romeo's is finished with her, she's clearly exhausted - these are manly men, let there be no doubt!
Deodato's penchant and flair for filming scenes of strong violence is on display throughout the movie. We see it in the opening scene when a blind man and his dog are made a casualty of the motorcycle chase and we see it repeatedly throughout the film, be it in a home invasion scene where our pair crash through the window on their bike to shoot up the bad guys or be it a shoot out that takes place in a rural area where the two are practicing their shooting skills only to be taken on unexpectedly by a sniper. Violence is clearly not just part of the job for these two but a way of life, they show no remorse whatsoever, nor do they ever show a second of hesitation when the situation calls for it.
If the storyline here is little more than a standard cops and robbers story, the execution of that story does help to set it apart from the herd. The film has loads of style, some great comic relief (most of which is intentional) that will make you laugh without seeming out of place in the film as it often can, and it really does excel in the action department. It's well paced, very nicely shot, features some great locations and loads of slick camera work and is just really well made overall. If you don't have an affinity for the genre or the decade in which it was made it might seem overly campy but for those out there who appreciate a great seventies cop movie, they don't usually come a whole lot better than this one.
Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man looks very good in this 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer (a very obvious improvement over Raro's previous PAL disc, which was simply letterboxed) which boasts very good color reproduction and strong black levels. Detail is pretty strong throughout and there are no problems with compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement. Skin tones sometimes look just a tiny bit warm but other than that, this is a pretty strong effort that leaves little room for complain.
Dolby Digital Mono tracks are offered up in English and Italian - the aforementioned PAL release had a problem where the English track only came out of the left side of your set up if you were watching it on a surround sound system, which has thankfully been fixed for this release. Both tracks sound good and offer clean dialogue and properly balanced levels. There are some differences between the two - the Italian track features music in the opening chase scene where the English does not and it features a fair bit more swearing on it than the English version does - but overall they both sound just fine.
The main extra on this disc is a featurette entitled Violent Cops which is an excellent forty-two minute look back at the making of the film by way of some interviews with Deodato, Lovelock and a few others. Discussions here include the supposed rivalry between leading men Lovelock and Porel, the violence in the film, how the opening chase scene was shot in the streets of Rome without permits and the impact of the film. It's quite thorough and very interesting - definitely spend the time to watch this if you dug the main feature.
Raro have also included twenty odd minutes of old commercials that Deodato made for Italian television. These black and white advertising spots include commentary from the director in which he points out various interesting tidbits about their history and creation. Animated menus and chapter stops are included on the disc and inside the keepcase is a nice little booklet of liner notes featuring some information on the film and a small biography and filmography for Ruggero Deodato.
One of the most enjoyable Italian crime films to come out of the genre's seventies heyday, Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man gets a pretty impressive release from Raro and comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.