It's possible that many American viewers will order Borsalino & Co. by mistake, thinking it is the original hit import Borsalino from four years earlier. This Alain Delon - produced gangster sequel is an expensive production with plenty of basic mob mayhem to dish out -- bullet for bullet, it has as much violence as John Milius' Dillinger of the previous year.
Jean-Paul Belmondo's photo is seen above a coffin, linking Borsalino & Co. to its source. Composer Claude Bolling also returns, but his score doesn't repeat the upbeat radio hit from the first film. The original Borsalino was sort of an outgrowth of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a sentimental gangland fairy tale where the costumes and cars were more important than anything resembling realism; the full regalia of a thirties' American gangster film was transplanted to 1930s Marseilles just for the fun of it all.
Borsalino & Co. is a far darker item utterly lacking in humor. It's also dry in the character department. Delon's Siffredi spends the entire film plotting revenge, with a short detour into a drunken stupor when his enemies force him to drink to ruin his reputation. The characters are well drawn within genre lines, with loyal henchmen and venal enemies eliciting the right viewer responses. At least they're nicely delineated to keep us from getting confused. The main enforcer for the baddies is played by Rene Kolldehoff, a specialist in thuggish Nazis in films like Soldier of Orange.
The show has no real romantic content. Siffredi's ever-loving girl is a prostitute named Lola (Catherine Rouvel). She does little but smile when she's happy and look sad when things aren't going well, and comes off mainly as arm candy. Horror star Anton Diffring (Circus of Horrors) has a bit part as a German agent in one brief scene.
Delon's main enemy is Riccardo Cucciola's Volpone, conceived as a right-wing fascist sympathizer eager to overrun France with Hitlerian values. Cucciola acts well but is given hiss-worthy lines like, "The laws are for the poor." The movie proposes the doubtful theory that honest criminal gangsterism is the natural enemy of political gangsterism. Corruption is corruption, and we really don't have any reason to root for Siffredi beyond the film's fashion endorsement.
Borsalino & Co. looks great, with dozens of lavishly detailed sets of bars, salons, theaters and restaurants. All the crooks bad and good wear immaculate color-coded wool coats in the latest styles. The cars are equally beautiful. The film follows post- Bonnie & Clyde 30's-chic stylistics, even though its plot is mostly a string of violent setpieces.
The violence is plenty nasty, yet without strong characters to worry about, not all that impressive. A comic is blown to bits in the middle of his stage act and a prostitute's eyes and face are burned away with acid. Machine gunnings and mass gundowns proliferate. All are grandly staged, and fans liking straight-up gangster action will be amply rewarded for their attention. But the only real stunner is the gruesome finale, a grimly sadistic murder one wouldn't wish on any but the worst villains of history. It's an atrocity that can't help but destroy sympathy for Delon's hero.
Borsalino & Co. ends with a title looking forward to a third instalment, perhaps picking up with Siffredi's adventures in America. I don't think it was ever made.
Kino's DVD of Borsalino & Co. is a dazzling disc, with a handsome enhanced transfer showing off the film's lush production values, from the huge sets to Alain Delon's spotless clothing. The audio is also top-quality, although we miss the jangly main theme from the original film.
We get to hear snippets of that music on the trailer for Borsalino & Co.. It and nine other Alain Delon films (presumably those personally produced by him?) are included as extras. The outside of the packaging makes no mention but the disc and the menus imply that all nine may come out as part of a Kino "The Alain Delon Collection." The most exciting title in the batch is the Delon/Jean Gabin/Lino Ventura epic The Sicilian Clan, a great picture with a superb score by Ennio Morricone. The Borsalino & Co. disc has trailers for both the French and American versions. It's probably asking too much, but I hope Kino does indeed have plans to bring these out.
A brief stills gallery is also included. Kino's multi-talented Bret Wood designed the packaging.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Borsalino & Co. rates: