Following on its success reviving Western films, Italian Cinema began producing a series of Crime movies known as Poliziotteschi. These films were heavily influenced by Hollywood 1970s dramas like Dirty Harry where the heroes---like those in Spaghetti Westerns---didn't always play by the rules, but got the job done.
Polizioteschi didn't have quite the same impact with American audiences as Spaghetti Westerns did. Part of the reason for this was that, unlike Westerns, police dramas were filmed in Italian cities and most US viewers tended to classify them as 'Euro-Cine'. However, these films were very well made and the heroes were not unlike their American counterparts. We'll examine this in more detail after this weekend's feature: Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man from 1976.
The story is about two plainclothesmen, Fred and Tony, played by the late Marc Porel and American actor Ray Lovelock, respectively. They are assigned to the Special Squad, a unit that employs 'non-conventional' methods, to say the least. The film begins with a legendary motorcycle-chase. According to some reports, the producers decided---for added realism---not to bother getting a permit for filming it; thus it happened in Rome during rush-hour. The Roman authorities weren't quite so sympathetic to this type of Artistic Expression and the studio was given a heavy fine.
Fred and Tony are assigned to take down a vicious mob-boss named Pasquini (played by Ronato Salvatore). Pasquini orders the assassination of the Special Squad's top agent, who's a friend of Fred and Tony, and they take up the case after his death. Their actions bring them into frequent conflicts with their commander, who is never named by played by Adolfo Celi. We later learn than the commander has a special interest in the case because Pasquini 'owns' a police official and the commander has a mission of his own to ferret out the traitor.
There is 94 minutes of solid action in this film. Fred and Tony are clearly a pair of guys who enjoy their work and actually seem to have fun fighting the bad guys. That is often a distinguishing feature of Poliziotteschi and similar Hollywood films of the era---there isn't the same level of cynicism and gravitas in the Italian versions. That makes them a lot more enjoyable, in our opinion.
As we alluded to above, the reason that these types of heroes are so popular is because they portray characters who recognize a code higher than the letter of the law. In more traditional police genres like the US radio/television series Dragnet, for example the police are by-the-book professionals who go after those outside the law. When public perception sees that that type of approach ineffective (i.e. during times of widesread lawlessness like both the US and Italy had during the 1970s) people want heroes who fight for right independently of legal red tape. In other words, they default---communally speaking---onto upholding the underlying principles of the law. Joe Friday of Dragnet represents the Spirit of the Law as an abstract concept, while characters like Fred and Tony represent the same Spirit in practical reality.
But we don't wish to over-analyze this film. It's a better-than-average police/action drama; in fact it's said to be the personal favorite of action-film Quentin Tarantino. I don't doubt that it influenced Tarantino's work considerably.
Though it's another holiday weekend, this movie will give any normal, adrenaline-filled male a healthy dose of brain bleach after some of the typical year-end mindlessness.
Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man: ✭ ✭✭✭ Four stars. Action, plot, good acting, and decent hot babe or two. You won't be disappointed.