If you like your poliziotteschi gentle, with lots of romantic dialogue, Judge Paul Corupe urges you to check this DVD out.
Un Poliziotto scomodo
Euro-cult fans have had it pretty good with DVD, reveling in monthly doses of stylish gialli, sadistic gothic horror shockers, and bleak spaghetti westerns. Strangely enough, though, those violent Italian 1970s crime thrillers known as poliziotteschi have yet to gain the same kind of visibility on retail shelves. They remain something of an undiscovered phenomenon to the most hardened Italian B-film fan. Again proving themselves the most vocal supporter of the genre, Italian export specialists NoShame Films have been working hard to rectify this by unloading a full clip of violent pasta cop dramas on R1. Their latest release, Stelvio Massi's steely Convoy Busters, is a misfire, though; a fairly pedestrian example of the oft-misunderstood genre.
Facts of the Case
Wherever homicide Inspector Olmi (Maurizio Merli, Violent Naples) goes, trouble seems to follow. After his investigation of a double murder inadvertently exposes the deep the roots of corruption that run through Rome's police force and judicial system, Olmi is busted down to the Emergency Squad by his boss. He takes to the new job immediately, leading an airborne raid on an escaped criminal, but his success also results in the death of an innocent bystander and makes him a target for mob hitmen. Losing faith in law and order, Olmi arranges for a transfer to a small village where he only has to deal with the occasional local ruffian. Locking his beloved handgun away, he meets lovely school teacher Anna (Olga Karlatos, Zombie) and tries to enjoy a laid back, easygoing lifestyle away from the dangers of the big city. But when he accidentally stumbles onto a gun smuggling ring operating in his picturesque little costal town, Olmi is once again forced to bring his friends Smith & Wesson out of retirement.
NoShame's continues to explore the work of Stelvio Massi with this, their third poliziotteschi release by the Italian director. After the A Fistful of Dollars update The Last Round and Emergency Squad, this is passable entertainment, but it's far from his best work. Coming very late in the cycle and lying somewhere between his two earlier efforts, it's at best a middling film that will have appeal to well-versed collectors that don't mind a lot talk with their action.
As with the tepid The Last Round, the action in Convoy Busters is almost entirely uninspired. Sure, Massi has peppered his meandering plot with token cop thriller set-pieces, but each potential helicopter chasin', gun-blastin' highlight feels haphazardly choreographed, and lacks the needed tension to make it memorable. Massi is far too fond of an old trick of his, capping these sequences with a poignant, slow-motion money shot to cover up for his seeming inability to build suspense. This technique only works so many times before it's recognized for what it truly is: a cheap gimmick. It's as though Massi isn't interested in the genre he's working in. He favors lengthy establishing shots, romantic interludes, and dialogue-heavy political scenes over the blood-squirting, magnum-blazing action fans have come to expect from this gritty genre.
The performance by heavily-mustachioed Italian genre legend Maurizio Merli is really the only reason one might want to check out Convoy Busters. While he's far too mean-spirited to really be empathetic, Merli is at his two-fisted best as Orli. He slaps the crap out of any lowlife and creep that dares cross his path—even if they might not deserve it from the audience's point of view. Too bad that his screen-written character arc is silly at best. It is obvious from the time that the trigger-happy Inspector unloads his handgun and locks it away in his desk drawer that it will end up back in action for the big finale. Still, Merli's thickly applied machismo wins out in the end, and it's worth watching just to see his fierce uppercut connecting with the jaw of the mafia scum that dare try to take over his town.
NoShame's DVD presentation of Convoy Busters is up to their usual fine standards, with a solid 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer featuring bold colors. Grain and print damage rear their ugly heads on occasion. It isn't too distracting, and this DVD overall makes for a pleasant viewing experience. Likewise, both the English and Italian mono audio tracks are fairly clean, each about as good as one would expect for this kind of release. Perhaps realizing Merli's presence is the most recommendable aspect of the film, NoShame has compiled five interviews as the main extras for this release that focus almost exclusively on paying tribute to the late actor. Merli's son, Maurizio Matteo Merli, is on hand first to lead viewers through his father's career, as does journalist Eolo Capacci and Merli's actor friend Enio Girolami. Directors Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust) and probably the finest poliziotteschi helmer, Enzo G. Castellari (The Big Racket) further eulogize Merli, enthusiastically talking up his skills and talents. A thorough selection, maybe, but I really would have preferred to see these close to 90 minutes of interviews edited down to a compact 30 minute doc on the actor's life. Quantity over quality is becoming an increasingly notable issue with NoShame's extras. Winding things up, we have the requisite image gallery, and trailers for Convoy Busters and Cop On Fire, a new Italian police thriller starring Maurizio Matteo Merli. Inside the DVD keep case, there's also a poliziotteschi-inspired short comic book by Maurizio Rosensweig and Diego Cajelli called Crime Story: The De Falco Connection that is a nice touch, even if it has nothing to do with the film.
Convoy Busters is fine exercise in Italian cop thrillers, but it's in no way notable. Massi's simply not up to par with the best directors of the genre, as all three of his recent DVDs from NoShame have proven. Merli fans will want to rent this one to check out one of Italian genre cinema's most underrated badasses, but all others will want to request a departmental transfer to Massi's superior Emergency Squad.
Guilty, possibly for reasons of moustache envy.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: NoShame Films
• Merli on Merli: A conversation with Maurizio Matteo Merli
Review content copyright © 2006 Paul Corupe; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.