Young, Violent, Dangerous (Liberi armati pericolosi, 1976) is, despite its genre and character clichés, a solid poliziotteschi about three young men on a bloody crime spree. The picture was adapted from Giorgio Scerbanenco's novel by Fernando di Leo, who as a director is the subject of an acclaimed four-film boxed set from last year. This film, directed by Romolo Guerrieri, is about on the level of those. It's extremely violent (though not especially graphic) and despairing, but imaginative and intelligent with socio-political content and an adult approach.
Raro Video's DVD is generally good, though the 1.85:1 film is presented in 4 x 3 widescreen rather than given 16:9 enhancement. Zoomed in on widescreen TVs the picture doesn't suffer too badly, but the English subtitles accompanying the Italian language track (an English-dubbed version is included also) will be cropped a bit on some monitors. Extras include an interview with the director.
Pretty blonde Lea (Eleonora Giorgi), worried about her boyfriend Luis's* (Max Delys) safety, informs the local, never-named commissario (Tomás Milián) that Luis and his two pals, Mario (Stefano Patrizi), aka "Blondie," and Giovanni (Benjamin Lev), aka Joe, are planning on holding up an Esso gas station that very morning, around nine o'clock. At first the commissioner brushes her off, but eventually he agrees to stake it out.
Sure enough the trio go through with the hold-up, which turns violent when Mario guns down the manager and he and Joe begin firing in every direction when the police close in. Four die in that bloodbath. "It was like A Fistful of Dollars!" cries Joe.
(The title of the movie itself is reminiscent of Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo which, of course, became The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Perhaps a more commercial title would be something like "The Youth, the Thug, and the Psychopath.")
Having eluded capture and flush with adrenalin Mario, the de facto leader, decides they might just as well hit a big bank, too. The daring, impromptu, and daylight robbery is shockingly successful. One man is murdered, but the trio gets away with five million lire. The police commissioner sets up roadblocks. Unaware that she's already spilled the beans to the police, Mario has Lea picked up and spineless Luis can't lift a finger to save her.
The three young men are genre clichés: Luis is (by 1970s Italian standards) impossibly handsome, but also extraordinarily weak-willed, basically non-violent (he's the gang's expert driver) and thoughtful. Mario has an innocent, almost baby-like face but also the most casually violent and has a kind of death wish; he's like an Italian version of the characters Bruce Davison often played around this time. Joe, meanwhile, is the smiling madman, laughing maniacally throughout the picture. Indeed, he cackles incessantly, to the point where he actually becomes quite irritating.
Some of the socio-political content is more than a little obvious and even preachy, such as when the commissioner sanctimoniously lectures the boys' wealthy parents for doing such a lousy job raising them. "If your son is a monster it's your fault!" insists the policeman.
The first third of the film also makes allusions to Italy's economic recession, with the trio at one point gleefully throwing money out the window like Robin Hood. "Maids!" they shout, "Don't forget to buy your toiletries!"
The film really gets interesting when Lea joins the three. Disgusted by her boyfriend's self-destructive passivity, she tries to get a reaction out of him by submitting herself sexually to Mario, but to no avail. Later it becomes clear that she simply cannot compete with Mario for Luis's affections. Their relationship isn't quite repressed homosexuality, but Mario definitely if subtly dominates him, and this sets up the movie's satisfying conclusion.
Visually, Young, Violent, Dangerous is directed with flair by Guerrieri, whose set pieces, including the robberies and an extended car chase, are all well done and which use their Milano locations well. The climatic standoff between the gang and the police uses well a unique, dizzyingly high bridge connecting two mountains.
The credits and original poster art play up Tomás Milián's role, but he's more on the sidelines, and because of the script's machinations completely incompetent at his job, considering how things turn out. Milián, an international star best known for his spaghetti Westerns and crime films, here shows his age and, possibly deliberately, sports an unflattering haircut that makes him look even older and more conservative.
Video & Audio
Filmed for 1.85:1 projection, Young, Violent, Dangerous is widescreen but not 16:9 enhanced. The image, despite signs of wear, is good overall with decent sharpness and true color and contrast. However, the bottom line of the two-tiered English subtitles will be cropped a bit when zoomed on widescreen TVs. On my monitor it was slight enough that I could still read them, but on others they might be illegible. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Italian track is the way to go; it's more explicit and authentic in terms of the dialogue. The English-dubbed version reportedly features the voice of Michael Forest as the commissioner and Pat Starke as Lea.
Supplements include a good interview with director Guerrieri, supported by a text-only biography and filmography. There's also supposed to be PDF content on the disc, but if there is I was unable to find it on the MacBook Pro I'm presently using.
A solid, above average thriller Young, Violent, Dangerous is another winner for Raro, and Highly Recommended.
* The IMDb lists the character as Luigi, technically correct, but throughout the movie he's called Luis, and in the English version he's Louie. Mario, aka "Blondie" becomes Paul, while Giovanni "Joe" remains Joe.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes film history books, DVD and Blu-ray audio commentaries and special features. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.