Il Boss


Nov 13, 2009
The Plot: Italy, 1973, the mob has been fractured by heavy police involvement in all of their forms of business. All of the old leaders have left for hiding, leaving behind their Lieutenants which has caused an immense amount of destabilization. There’s no order to the crime world anymore and all of the younger captain’s are taking aim at their new bosses in order to form a more stable union. After the massacre of several rival mob bosses in a theater, Don Giuseppe (Claudio Nicastro), a captain under Don Corrasco (Richard Conte) who gave the order, has recently had his daughter kidnapped by the villainous Cocchi (Pier Paolo Capponi) who plans on getting his hands upon Giuseppe in order to torture information out of him while eventually going after Corrasco’s empire. The one thing they didn’t count on though is Nick Lanzetta (Henry Silva), a cold blooded and calculating hit man who will stop at nothing to protect the family. Nick hits the streets and before long he’ll find these men… and make them pay!

The Review: Henry Silva is a dog. A true beast of a man in every way fashionable. What makes him so special one might ask? How about his bizarre masculinity and very different facial structure for starts? Piercing features that give any film geek a very homo-erotic feeling of super charged manimal lust… well, maybe the infatuation that we movie geeks have isn’t quite that strong, but best to believe the guy is really great at what he does. His unconventional look is just a part of what makes him such an iconic character. The roles he so often portrays is another building block in what makes the myth out of the man. Il Boss here (That’s Eye-Talian for THE Boss!) is certainly a cornerstone in both his career as well as in director Fernando Di Leo’s, who directed plenty other Italian genre films but may be best known for this particular feature. Why? Because Il Boss kinda takes everything you’ve heard about the Euro-Crime genre and then amplifies it. It is not a nuanced or complicated movie, even if the plot at times starts to become so. Really, all you need to know about Il Boss is that Henry Silva is a bad scary man and he’s here to mess other people up in a big way.

Sure, the movie has more going for it than just that. And I’ll get to those things in a moment, but what carries the movie is the performance from Henry Silva. What is crazy about that though is that he really doesn’t have to do a whole lot here in terms of actual acting. The character of Nick Lanzetta is such a HARD guy. Silva literally avoids all emotion in his role. His range goes from “sneer” to “annoyance” to outright “anger” in nearly all scenes. Even when this guy makes love he still looks like he’s ready to crack someone’s sternum. Really, when you start getting to know this character your first thoughts would be that surely this guy has no interest in the opposite sex. Doing so would somehow crack that veneer of invulnerability. That this monster could somehow engage in an extremely intimate or sentimental action such as sex doesn’t seem at all logical. That’s sort of what makes him interesting though, as when we see Nick’s apartment during the film it’s hard not to notice the littering of pornography all over his walls. He takes sex and he makes it into something primal and the least bit emotional; which is so fitting for this guy. Silva may not have to do much, but he does get his point across in tremendous fashion.

Aside from the presence of one Henry Silva, what caught my attention most from Il Boss would be the interesting choices made in the script. The issue of having the don’s daughter not only being promiscuous, but being… well, there’s no other way to put it, but being a slut. Say what you want about the women’s liberation movement of the era, but this girl is taking on two guys at a time simply because they are there. Not to mention these are men who have kidnapped her and are wanting to kill her father and will more than likely kill her. It’s an interesting decision and it gives a somewhat unnecessary but interesting background excess that the actress is able to play off of. Her history with her father, her rebellion, all very interesting 3D dynamics that gloss over the fact that she was obviously just there to show off her fantastic body. Aside from this, there’s also the music by Luis Enriquez Bacalov which may make for the most excting music I’ve heard in a Euro-Crime flick to date. A mix of hard rock with snyth jazz, the music really escalates the film to another level. Especially when the hard rock beat starts thumping over the soundtrack, you can’t help but nod your head and expect to see some guys get made dead, real good.

Although the violence in these sort of films are often pretty hyped, far beyond their delivery, I think Il Boss makes good. Certainly not what I would consider gory or bloody by any means, the body count kind of makes up for that. Especially during the intro and the finale. Wow, the introduction, I mean really, how do you even describe it? Without question one of the most insane openings for any Italian crime flick on the market. Death, destruction, mayhem and most of all: Henry Silva with a rocket launcher blowing mafia thugs up. I am so not even joking on that one. Hard to believe this is based upon a novel (that being Mafioso by Peter McCurtin). Rarely did you see the full on body explosion gag in movies before CGI came along and ruined our world, but here we’re given an entire room full of dummies blown to smithereens followed by one other poor unlucky soul getting blasted to kingdom come. How over the top is your movie when you start it off with death by rocket launcher? The last ten minutes are equally as creative in the use of violence, although I’ll not spoil it for anyone. Let’s just say there are bodies dropping everywhere and even a massive explosion. How can you go wrong?

If there was anything wasted here, I would say it had to be Gianni Garko who unfortunately plays the squirmy informant police officer. When I first saw Garko pop up I found myself getting pretty excited at the prospect of a Garko Vs. Silva meet-up at some point but his character just becomes less and less masculine as the movie seems to go on. It’s just unfortunate that Garko didn’t get to play the heavy alongside Silva, but at the same time I have to commend him for his performance as it is most assuredly worm like. Doing a lot of acting with his hands here (much like his chief at the precinct), the character just seems hyperactive at times in comparison to the cold blooded and always collected Henry Silva. Also along for the ride is Richard Conte, best known as Barzini from The Godfather, who shows up here in the role of Don Corrasco. Conte is great and adds a certain level of class to the project, as crazy as that may sound. He is grizzled in his performance and although he doesn’t get to chew much scenery, his presence is definitely felt throughout. Director Fernando Di Leo keeps his film in check with these three stars very much at polar opposite ends of one another. Especially in the case of Garko and Silva who never actually share any screen time together until the very end of the movie. Which brings me to another point, as the film seems to follow two different directions, one focusing on the police procedural direction as they try to piece together just what is going on with the inner workings of the mafia and then the other from the actual vantage point of the mob itself. However, aside from the very beginning when the law gets involved, for the most part these scenes almost seem disconnected from the rest of the movie. As things play out it’s easy to forgive, as it all gets tied together fairly well, but for most of the scenes shot from the side of the law we spend all of our time in the police department which seems so very far from the streets where all of this violence is currently taking place.

Il Boss isn’t your average cops and robbers chase like the majority of Italian crime flicks. It takes a very Mafia story approach but also mixes things up with its changing up of tradition. It is not perfect though. Even with it’s grilling pace, there are still moments that slow the movie down and the amount of dialogue based around names can get slightly confusing when keeping up with all of the characters. Don Giuseppe, Don Corrasco, Cocchi, etc. You really have to listen to the dialogue and get the inflections of just who is who and what is what. This comes no doubt from the fact that it is based upon a novel where you don’t run into these issues, but there probably could have been an easier solution. Regardless, I still loved Il Boss. For fans of Euro Crime, this could be the holy grail if you haven’t seen it already. Brilliant violence, tougher than nails leading men and.. well, a rocket launcher! I give it a four out of five and am very happy with this classic. Check it out!