Judge Paul Corupe drives a pinto moreno.
The White Uno
Named for their peculiar getaway car, a white Fiat Uno always stolen the night before a job, Italy's vicious "Uno Bianca" gang were armed robbers and killers who left a trail of blood and empty bank vaults in Northern Italy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their shocking exploits were later captured in the appropriately titled Uno Bianca, a 2001 two-part, made-for-TV thriller directed by Michele Soavi. This fictionalized retelling of their brutal legacy has now been presented on DVD for the first time by Euro-cult masters NoShame. More procedural than polizieschi, Soavi's Uno Bianca is a well-made and relentlessly suspenseful film that should resonate strongly with North American audiences, even if it doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel.
Facts of the Case
When their friend and commanding officer is brutally gunned down in the middle of an operation, special mafia taskforce detectives Valerio (Kim Rossi Stuart, The Name of the Rose) and Rocco (Dino Abbrescia, Beside Myself) make it their mission to put an end to the mysterious "Uno Bianca" gang. The only clue they have is the ubiquitous white Fiat Uno. When they're not butting heads with a judge in the next jurisdiction, the pair is able to determine the gang's next bank target, but arrive too late to stop it. Using newly-installed security cameras, they review scores of old tapes and finger one of the robbers as he cases the joint. After some smart detective work, they stake out the suspect's apartment and ascertain the identities of the rest of the Uno Bianca murderers—a discovery which shocks the two hardworking detectives. Against Rocco's warnings, Valerio goes undercover in an attempt to infiltrate the gang, but he is outed just as the final arrest warrants are drawn up. With the whereabouts of one more gang member still unknown, Valerio suddenly finds himself in a race against time to put the killers behind bars before they can get to his wife and unborn child.
Have you ever noticed that when a country's film industry is in decline, the first thing to disappear from cinema screens is usually genre films? It's a sad truth that has sent dozens of talented B-film directors across the world packing for low-rent television studios. Even Italian horror heir apparent Michele Soavi, who helmed the celebrated 1994 cult zombie hit Dellamorte Dellamore, found himself churning out a spate of low-budget TV movies when the industry hit a slump. Made just a few short years after Dellamorte Dellamore, Uno Bianca is much better than your average prime time drivel, however; a solid cop thriller that bridges the gap between the Italian polizieschi thrillers of the 1970s and the modern police procedural.
In fact, any Western viewer who's seen a little CSI, Law and Order, or The Shield will be entirely comfortable with the film's somewhat predictable plotline. Valerio and Rocco piece together forensic evidence, use the latest crime detection technology, and follow their gut intuition to bring the Uno Bianca gang to justice. All the requisite cop show scenes have been dutifully included in Luigi Montefiori's relatively uninspired script, including Valerio's death bed promise to his friend to track down the killers, numerous wild car chases, surveillance stake-outs, and revealing interrogations. There's even a trite, Rear Window-esque scene of Rocco placing wire-taps in an Uno Bianca gang member's apartment that has him scrambling for the closet when his mark suddenly returns home—all as Valerio watches from an abandoned building across the street.
At least Uno Bianca knows how to handle these clichéd scenes well, and the film is exciting even if it's not terribly original or thoughtful. Soavi's dynamic visuals and his flair for placing his characters in undeniably suspenseful situations will keep you riveted throughout the lengthy, three-hour running time. Particularly of interest is the film's early shoot-out in which the cops' fellow officer is killed: an explosive and violent showdown that pumps out what must be thousands of rounds of gunfire in the space of just a few minutes. Other polizieschi styled set-pieces follow, including dynamically-filmed robberies and a series of tense moments in which Valerio is expected to prove himself to the gang by killing innocent bystanders. As the two detectives, Kim Rossi Stuart and Dino Abbrescia ably help things along by turning in commendable performances, even if they're stuck with somewhat under-written characters that don't really have anything to do besides stake out bad guys and throw themselves into the occasional action scene.
Regrettably, this two-part film (with one 100-minute installment on each of the set's two discs) is presented in a non-anamorphic 1.66:1 transfer. This is the disc's only real disappointment, because otherwise the film looks excellent, with deep, saturated colors and crystal-clear detail. There's no reason for this oversight, especially given NoShame's usual excellent standards. A Dolby Stereo Italian soundtrack and English subtitles is your only audio option here, but it sounds as good as you might expect, with excellent clarity for dialogue and the cheesy electro score. As usual, NoShame has outfitted Uno Bianca with a splendid array of special features anchored by three solid interviews with screenwriter Luigi Montefiori, producer Pietro Valsecchi and cinematographer Gianni Mammolotti. At 17 minutes, Monterfori's segment is the longest and most interesting. He talks extensively about the difficulties he had in preparing the script, while the others help flesh out the story behind the film—but where's Michele Soavi? There's also a brief and inessential introduction to the film by Valsacchi which automatically plays when you start the movie up. On the second disc, you'll find a still gallery and two promotional "behind the scenes" featurettes, though one is simply an edited down version of the other. In addition to the biography-laden booklet in the case, you'll also find a cardboard Fiat Uno to punch out and fold together; a nice little touch.
Uno Bianca is an interesting police procedural with a healthy does of suspense and primitive violence. Despite the non-anamorphic video and Michele Soavi's conspicuous absence in the extras, this solid, Italian, made-for-TV film is worth a spin for cop show enthusiasts and fans of Soavi.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: NoShame Films
• Introduction by Producer Pietro Valsecchi
Review content copyright © 2006 Paul Corupe; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.