Judge Paul Corupe digs violence and sleazy bloodshed.
Il Conto è chiuso
Ever since the auspicious birth of the DVD format, the home video market has been literally flooded with Euro-cult titles in a way that would have been unthinkable even ten short years ago. Although stylish gialli, sadistic gothic horror shockers, and bleak Italo-Spanish westerns are all easily found at any local DVD retailer these days, "poliziotteschi," those violent crime thrillers that proliferated in Italian cinemas in the 1970s, have been slow making the digital jump. NoShame Films, a top-notch DVD production house specializing in Italian exports, has taken the lead in this neglected cycle, finally bringing obscurities like The Last Round to a North American audience. One of the most curious entries in the genre, director Stelvio Massi's fast-paced thriller is a modern, poliziotteschi update of the classic spaghetti western, A Fistful of Dollars.
Facts of the Case
A mysterious stranger, Marco Russo (Carlos Monzón, Macho Killers), saunters into town looking for employment, but he only finds trouble. After using his fists to stand up for some locals being fired from their industrial jobs, Marco gets badly beaten and dumped outside the city limits by some mob thugs. But his brief show of brawn and determination impresses factory owner and crime boss Rico Manzetti (Luc Merenda, Gambling Squad), who decides to take on Marco as a hired goon. Marco is nobody's stooge, though, and he quickly uses his position to agitate the waters with Manzetti's gangland rival, Belmondo (Mario Brega, My Name Is Nobody), playing them against each in order to settle a personal score.
Stelvio Massi, who worked as a camera operator on A Fistful of Dollars, was obviously heavily inspired by his experiences working with Sergio Leone, because The Last Round owes a significant debt to the pioneering spaghetti western—and, in turn, its inspiration, Yojimbo. But try as he might, Massi is unable to infuse The Last Round with the same epic sweep that made those earlier works classics of modern cinema, and The Last Round is, in the end, too forgettable to make much of an impact.
In keeping with his inspirations, Massi's take on the classic story is a much more character-driven piece than the majority of Italian crime thrillers, actively downplaying the violence and sleazy bloodshed to dwell on Marco's vengeful plot and his careful manipulation of the warring mafia families. It certainly makes the film unique in a genre that relied heavily on formulaic revenge plots, but former boxer Carlos Monzón doesn't really have the chops to pull it off. Sure, he can obviously handle himself in a fight and he certainly looks the part, but Monzón is no Clint Eastwood, and he's totally upstaged by cult actor Luc Merenda, who takes a rare bad guy turn with the evil Manzetti, a sexually deviant gun nut whose suave charm belies his ruthlessness.
Even when Monzón does get to talk with his fists, the action ends up being rather uninspired, weighed down by badly choreographed fight scenes that even revert to slow-motion, apparently in an effort to hide the fact that punches rarely connect with their intended targets. Instead, the best moments of the film end up being those that pay homage to Leone's Dollars trilogy, such as a close-up of Manzetti's eyes as he listens to the spinning gun barrel, or the chimes of a melancholy music box owned by Marco. Each of these scenes is extremely evocative, but only of how Leone's films are much better than this rather routine genre exercise.
The quality of NoShame's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is quite good, save some minor print damage that crops up occasionally, but that's admitted up front with a mild disclaimer. Otherwise, the disc delivers a nice, robust picture with good clarity and spot-on color. For audio, The Last Round sports mono tracks in both English and Italian, which are typically clear despite some noticeable underlying hiss—though keep in mind that NoShame doesn't allow "on the fly" switching between audio tracks and subtitles. As Massi passed away a few years ago and Luc Merenda is extensively interviewed on NoShame's A Man Called Magnum release, this set kind of skimps out on bonus features. There's another interview with Merenda on this disc, but it's mostly about his Paris-based antique shop; he barely discusses his acting career at all. The major bonus feature is the set's second disc, a CD of eight groovy Italian soundtrack covers by an electronica band called Entropia. It's a nice addition, but to be honest, I'd rather have had a collection of the originals, as these have been modernized way too much for my tastes, with booming bass and irritating techno keyboards. Completing the disc is the expected still gallery, an Italian trailer, and an extensive booklet.
It's not really a surprise that The Last Round pales in comparison to A Fistful of Dollars and Yojimbo, but it is disappointing. Handled properly, this could have been a brilliant twist on classic cinema, but as it is, this is a minor Italian thriller that will likely appeal to completists only.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: NoShame Films
• Tour of Luc Mereda's Antique Shop
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