Roma Violenta, 1975. Directed by Marino Girolami. With Maurizio Merli, Ray Lovelock, John Steiner, Richard Conte and Luciano Rossi.
The very first shot: a J&B sign.
Inspector Betti (Maurizio Merli) tries to find two criminals who killed a young man during a robbery. He gets help from a young undercover cop, Biondi (Ray Lovelock), to whom he is an example and mentor. Betti is also after another group of brutal murderous robbers, which leads to a major car chase, Biondi getting paralyzed and Betti’s resignation. Then Betti is contacted by Sartori (Richard Conte), a lawyer who wants to assemble a vigilante-group....
Betti and Biondi
This is the first poliziesco that stars Maurizio Merli. It made him a star and in the next five years he made about 12 more of these police films. Like most of these films there isn’t too much of a story, but that isn’t a bad thing per se. Betti’s ongoing fight with a whole bunch of brutal, ruthless criminals on one hand, and his superiors on the other hand, who’s main concern is with following the rules and avoiding bad press, is just what his films are all about.
...and the victim getting her ass kicked like there's no tomorrow.
The action is plenty and pretty cool, both Merli’s one-on-one’s with various criminals, as well as the big car chase scene halfway through the movie. Maybe there isn’t too much depth in Merli’s performance, but as sort of an iconic cop-figure, whose main concern is with the victims and catching the criminals, he’s just right. He comes off as passionate and sympathetic. There are also quite a few familiar faces, like John Steiner, Luciano Rossi, Lovelock and Silvano Tranquilli, which really adds to the fun. This is a very enjoyable, well made film, with a great soundtrack by G & M De Angelis.
A mysterious, open ending suggests that Betti might die, but the following year Merli was back for two more Betti-films: A Special Cop In Action (Italia A Mano Armata), also directed by Marino Girolami, and Umberto Lenzi’s Violent Naples (Napoli Violenta), which is my all time favourite poliziesco.