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Milian vs. Merli: Two Egos at War

by Tony Nash

(a Part of Poliziotto e Criminale: The Poliziotteschi of the 1970’s)

(all opions are of the author alone)

(Spoiler free)

(Review is of the Italian language version)

The Tough Ones (1976)

Roma Amano Armata (Rome Armed to the Teeth/The Tough Ones) (1976) R *****

Maurizio Merli: Commissario Leonardo Tanzi

Tomas Milian: Vincenzo “Il Gobbo” Moretto

Arthur Kennedy: Vice Questore Ruini

Giampiero Albertini: Commissario Francesco Caputo

Ivan Rassimov: Antonio “Tony” Parenzo

Maria Rosaria Omaggio: Anna, Juvenile Psychologist

Luciano Catenacci: Ferdinando Gerace

Stefano Patrizi: Stefano, College Punk

Biagio Pelligra: Savelli

Aldo Barberito: Maresciallo Pogliana

Corrado Solari: Albino, Gobbo Henchman

Written by: Dardano Sacchetti, from a story by Umberto Lenzi

Directed by: Umberto Lenzi

Synopsis: Police detective Tanzi, desperate to take down a notorious criminal named Ferrender, goes to extreme lengths to catch the man red-handed. When a seemingly harmless petty criminal called the Hunchback deliberately harms himself to discredit Lenzi as a loose cannon, Tanzi’s partner and their superior force him to take a desk job, making Tanzi realize the harmless man isn’t so harmless. In between these cases, Tanzi also deals with College delinquents, bank robberies, and a sinister drug dealer. Piaggio Vespa in "Roma a mano armata, 1976"

In 1976 the Euro Crime genre was at its height, and noted genre producer Luciano Martino was looking to cash in once again. His idea was to put together two of the genre’s biggest stars in the same film, the duo was Tomas Milian and overnight star Maurizio Merli. The script that came about had a main plot mixed with several little side ones that allowed for diversity with the many ideas the writers wanted to use. The little side plots work quite nice as viewers are shown the varied types of criminals Italy had, from the petty criminals, to the spoiled privledged youths with no direction to the high-class criminals who hide behind respectability. While director Umberto Lenzi’s original treatment and Sachetti’s finalized script offer a lot of action and entertainment, Lenzi wanted to convey a little more depth than most of the predecessor and contemporary films of the genre in its social context. The cop protagonist is very cynical and believes the laws hinder the police and give the criminals too many loopholes to avoid arrest and imprisonment, almost wanting to return to a time when the police ruled absolutely with no boundaries. Mixing the standard police cracking down on various baddies throughout a film with the constantly at odds with the counter culture fascist cop made for something exciting and different in the genre.

Una scena tratta da Roma a Mano Armata ‧ Spoiler Alert

What should have been the cleverest team up of noted stars since Franco Nero and Tomas Milian in Vamos a Matar, Companeros! (Companeros) six years previously, evolved into one of the most antagonistic and volatile working relationships in Italian genre cinema. Both Tomas Milian and Maurizio Merli took an instant dislike to each other, and what merely began as neutrality turned into all out war. Both men had huge egos, Milian demanding artistic freedom and integrity, and Merli a full of himself prima donna and arrogant hothead due to his overnight success a year or two earlier. Merli had initiated the conflict when he tried upstaging Milian, who at this period had earned all of Rome’s admiration, and Milian, finally having enough of Merli’s pompous manner, physically attacked Merli by really kicking him during a scene. Lenzi was forced to step in to break the pair up before fists started being thrown, having a solid working relationship with both men, and Merli practically shouting he wouldn’t perform in the same space with Milian any longer, nor did he ever want to work him ever again.

The Tough Ones' on Blu-ray Finds the Beauty in Brutality

Maurizio Merli, while only have ever really acted in Euro Crime films, gives a surprisingly deep and semi-nuanced performance as Commissario Tanzi. Constantly bordering on clear sense of justice and complete fascism, Tanzi is sick of crime and even sicker of the laws that seem to help the criminals and hinder the police. Feeling all criminals should be prosecuted no matter what the crime is or if the offenders have records or not leads Tanzi into continual strife with not only his partner and their superior, but also his civic duty minded girlfriend who feels some criminals are redeemable if give the chance. When the apprehension of a dangerous criminal becomes an obsession and the shooting of a repeat offender who tried to run him over, it looks as if Tanzi is now bordering on being unredeemable himself. Merli plays Tanzi as a clearly hard-bitten cop whose been at the job too long and has most likely lost his faith in the human race thanks to all the depravity, violence and lack of morality he’s constantly forced to come into contact with. That he wants Italy to return to Mussolini’s idea of justice in giving the law absolute authority with no restrictions and to possible suspend the offenders civilian rights has him nearly bordering on being a criminal himself in wanting to denounce the idea of a democratic justice system. Whether he can be redeemed in some way is up to himself.

The Tough Ones (Blu-ray) : DVD Talk Review of the Blu-ray

Tomas Milian, one of Italy’s biggest genre stars, gives one of his top 5 performances as Vincenzo Moretto, alias Il Gobbo. Il Gobbo (Italian slang for The Hunchback) is a wily criminal with a psychotic side who does whatever he can to evade the law and succeed in the underworld. Playing Tanzi at his own game after he humiliates him and tries to entrap him, Il Gobbo deliberately slashes his own wrists in order to get out of police custody and accusing Tanzi of brute force. Both wisecracking and dangerous, Il Gobbo shows himself and crafty when he’s revealed as a big-time player in cahoots with the big boss Ferrender whose gone into hiding, making a lot of decisions in regards to crimes and money. Going between innocent and a little pathetic to downright arrogant and dangerous, Gobbo proves he’s a force not to be underestimated and to be fearful of. Milian’s usual style of mixing wacky and occasionally vulgar humor with unflinching moments of violence and mayhem is on display here and is as effective as always.


Cool Ass Cinema: 07/21/19

American actor Arthur Kennedy and Italian character player Giampiero Albertini offer two interesting and distinctly different interpretations of leading law enforcement officials. Kennedy plays Ruini, one of the chiefs of police who’s very by the book and allows little in-between room for handling cases. He’s made it clear several times over he doesn’t approve of Tanzi’s methods of handling criminals and his hatred of the recent laws passed, but does admit that Tanzi is a good cop who only wants to keep the people safe. Kennedy plays Ruini as a man willing to take any criticism and harshness about the system, but will fight back when his integrity and the need to make the system is questioned. Albertini plays Caputo, another leading investigator and Tanzi’s partner in the main division. Like Ruini, Caputo believes the judicial system needs to be given time to become effective, and like Tanzi believes leniency needs to be issued when dealing with career criminals and repeat offenders who know how to work the system. His own sense of justice comes under personal crisis when he realizes Tanzi’s been right about certain things, and must face those demons head on.

Roma a mano armata" di Umberto Lenzi: quel crime all'italiana ...

With Euro Crime films sometimes acting as entertainment commentary on Italy’s state of crime in the 70’s, Armata is no different in that approach. Mainly via Tanzi, Lenzi and his co-writer express their worry that the recently passed judiciary laws won’t be effective in curtailing criminal activity and that some veteran cops will want to resort to fascist style tactics in order to bring down the more dangerous offenders, which will only lead to more complications. 1971 Laverda 750 SF in "Roma a mano armata, 1976"

A prime example of what Euro-Crime is all about, Roma Amano Armata is the near perfect blend of action, suspense, thrills, acting, and story. Underseen for some time in the States, the last 20 years have brought this gem of a film back to life, and reliving the days when the Italian youth of the 70’s went flocking to see the film.

(A absolute must watch for any fan of Euro Crime, whether they’re vets looking to add on to their catalog of titles, or newcomers looking for a good place to start viewing and collecting. Any Tomas Milian performance is worth seeing, and this film is a particularly good example, and well worth anyone wanting to know more about acting to take lessons from. The backstory of Milian and Merli’s heated working relationship alone is enough to make people interested in seeing how the mostly hate fueled atmosphere helped the film and its overall effect. The Blu Ray from Grindhouse Releasing [founded by the sadly late Sage Stallone, Sly’s son] is beautiful looking in both audio and visual quality, the crispness in image and soundtrack nearly brand brand new. A plethora of extras including interviews with Umberto Lenzi and Tomas Milian [both recorded before the two men passed away] as well as a retrospective style documentary on Lenzi, his career, and influence/impact on cinema as a whole are as much fun to enjoy as the film itself.)

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Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

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