Ugo (Moschin) is paroled after serving three years for the robbery of a money courier. His criminal associates, including the histrionic Rocco (Adorf), want to know what happened to the 300K dollars from the job. Ugo claims he was set up and doesn’t know who heisted the heisters. He’s going straight and just wants to get back with his go-go dancer girlfriend Nelly (Bouchet). But Rocco and his boss, The American (Stander) make Ugo an offer he can’t refuse: work for us and stay alive.
The story is pretty good, with the double-crossing denouement flagged up beforehand but never annoyingly obvious. The film works best when it focuses on Ugo, his dilemmas and Moschin’s inscrutable face – these all leave you guessing until the last ten minutes. Both a sub-plot which explores political factions in the Milanese police and the sequences which luxuriate in Rocco’s operatic approach to violence are less controlled, less successful.
This is the sort of European film you used to stumble upon on the graveyard shift of 80s and 90s late night/early morning UK tv: the saturated colours, the overwrought minimalist de luxe design elements (for example, Nelly’s apartment – even the glasses are outrageously, needlessly styled), the endless sipping of J&B … back then these created an atmosphere that dropped like a bomb in my colourless, after midnight existence. I’m glad to say that this film at least still seems like an irruption from another time, when cinema concerned itself with evoking seedy milieus and immersing the viewer in them.
Milano Calibro 9 is well worth checking out – let’s hope Arrow Video continues to discover, restore and release such genre gems with so many value-adding extras to give context and improve knowledge of the social history of these films.
- Calibro 9 – 2004 making-of documentary featuring interviews with director Fernando Di Leo, stars Barbara Bouchet and Philippe Leroy, and others
- Fernando Di Leo: The Genesis of the Genre – documentary charting the filmmaking career of the Milano Calibro 9 director
- Scerbanenco Noir – a look at the work of Italian crime writer Giorgio Scerbanenco, author of the original Milano Calibro 9 novel
- Gastone Mochin audio interview
- Italia Violenta – Matthew Holness, writer and star of cult television series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, offers up an appreciation of Milano Calibro 9 and the Italian poliziotteschi sub-genre
Review by Colin Dibben
[SRA value=”4″ type=”YN”]
Milano Calibro 9 is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 15 June 2015