Judge Daryl Loomis chugged absinthe right before writing this review.
Our review of Shoot First, Die Later, published May 28th, 2013, is also available.
How much corruption have you been involved in just to get yourself a lousy stinking present at Christmas time?
If you're a fan of action or crime movies and are unfamiliar with the name Fernando Di Leo, you're doing yourself a disservice not to check out his movies. As one of the kings of Italian crime cinema, he pumped out brutal, fast-paced fare in his home country, but genre fans in this country don't seem to embrace him in the same way that, say, horror fans throw around names like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci almost as much as their American counterparts. Raro Video, which has done great work in bringing obscure Italian cinema to American audiences, did a great job with their first collection of Di Leo crime films, let's see how they do with the Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection, Vol. 2.
Facts of the Case
Naked Violence: At a school for juvenile delinquents, a young teacher is raped and murdered by her class. The delinquents admit to nothing and are all set to go to trial when Detective Lamberti (Pier Paolo Capponi, Farinelli), lead investigator on the case, suspects that another person, likely an adult, is the one who got the kids to perform the act, but now he must find out who before it's too late.
Shoot First, Die Later: A young cop (Luc Merenda, Torso) is the darling of the force as he follows in his father's footsteps. But his corruption is exposed when he seeks to suppress a seemingly modest police report that leads back to the crooks who have bought him.
Kidnap Syndicate: Two boys, one the son of a mechanic (Merenda, once again) and the other the son of a rich businessman (James Mason, A Star Is Born), are kidnapped outside of their school. They aren't in danger if the businessman pays the ransom, but when he refuses to pay, the mechanic's son is killed. The cops are powerless so the father, in his grief and rage, grabs his gun and exacts his own kind of vengeance.
While all three films here are great fun and good movies, they don't quite measure up to those on the first collection. That's a little unfair, since that group represents some of the very best in crime cinema that Italy has to offer. These are all very solid, but they still don't reach that level.
Shoot First, Die Later comes pretty close; its rock solid story and heavy action content make it one of Di Leo's best films and a fantastic piece of pulp entertainment. It starts with a very small issue, a simple case of a car blocking a gate, but that quickly spirals into beatings and murder when the officer tries to suppress the report. Its grim story about the hopeless corruption in the police force and throughout society is accented by brutal violence and fantastically tense car chases that are some of the best you're going to see. Really, the only downside to the movie is the lead performance. Luc Merenda isn't terrible, but he's not terribly believable, either.
He does a little better in Kidnap Syndicate, released the following year, playing a vengeful mechanic rather than a detective, where he wasn't particularly believable. Here, he's more than adequate as he hunts down the people who killed his son. It's may be even more grim than Shoot First, Die Later, with the sickening display of greed from both the kidnappers and the rich father, unwilling to pay money he easily has because he looks at the criminals as businessmen he can negotiate with. It's not quite as violent as the previous film, but it's a little meaner, both in the way the kids are treated and how Merenda handles the situation. There aren't any car chases, but there's enough gunplay to make up for it.
The final film in the set is the earliest and weirdest, but also the least. Naked Violence starts off with the roughest scene in the collection, the attack on the teacher, but then becomes a weirdly drawn mystery where you're left to wonder how the crime came to pass, but there are no clues to the solution of it. The ending comes out of nowhere and, on top of it, there are a bunch of ugly bits about homosexuals and transvestites (Shoot First, Die Later has a lot of this, too; apparently, Di Leo had a fixation on this). It's still a fun movie, but a lesser start to the set. Don't worry; it gets a lot better from there.
As a group, this volume doesn't have the same connection that the first did and, overall, the movies are neither as powerful nor as exciting as the previous one. They're still great fun, though, and totally worth watching. Di Leo was one of the greats of Italian genre cinema and, even not at his very best, it's easy to see why.
Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection, Vol. 2 is a predictably excellent set and, given that Shoot First, Die Later is the only movie that has been previously released, this is definitely something crime movie fans will want to pick up. The images are all brand new 1.85:1/1080p high-definition transfers and they look great. There is sharp detail all the way around with good, rich colors and nice black levels. In Naked Violence and Shoot First, Die Later, there is basically nothing to complain about; they're nearly perfect. Kidnap Syndicate carries the same high level of quality, but there's an odd issue with some weird blue dots that rattle around in the browns and blacks throughout the film. It's not a deal breaker, but it is a little distracting.
The sound mixes are all of good quality, as well. All three feature 2.0 mono tracks, in both Italian and English. Ordinarily, because the movies are dubbed no matter what language it's in, but in this case, the Italian mix is a little bit brighter and definitely the one to choose. The only problem is that, at times, the subtitle translations don't really make much sense, forcing me to go in and listen to the English dub to figure out what the heck was going on.
On all three discs, the extras are limited to interviews (along with a few trailers), but there are a good amount of them and they're full of information. Naked Violence has two, "Goodfellas" and "Fernando Di Leo at the Cinemateque." Shoot First, Die Later delivers another two, "Master of the Game" and "The Second Round of the Game." Kidnap Syndicate has only one, "Violent Cities: The Other Fernando Di Leo Trilogy," but it's the longest of the group. Combined, these interviews with the director, as well as members of the casts and crews, run nearly two hours and tell all kinds of great stories about Di Leo's career and how the specific movies were made. Along with an informational booklet that comes in the box, this is a fantastic collection.
Raro has opened people's eyes to so many great Italian films and, with another terrific release from the label, they have done it again. Anybody who likes their movies filled with gangsters, corrupt cops, and violent crime owes it to themselves to pick up the Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection, Vol. 2. The movies may not quite live up to the level that Volume 1 delivered, but that's no problem; there is still plenty of solid pulp entertainment here. This is a must buy release that should certainly satisfy.
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Scales of Justice, Naked Violence
Perp Profile, Naked Violence
Studio: Raro Video
Distinguishing Marks, Naked Violence
Scales of Justice, Shoot First, Die Later
Perp Profile, Shoot First, Die Later
Studio: Raro Video
Distinguishing Marks, Shoot First, Die Later
Scales of Justice, Kidnap Syndicate
Perp Profile, Kidnap Syndicate
Studio: Raro Video
Distinguishing Marks, Kidnap Syndicate
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