Street Law


May 10, 2009
The Plot: Carlo Antonelli (Franco Nero) is a successful engineer who has it all. While stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time one day however, his life is turned upside down. Whilst depositing a major amount of money, a group of thugs hold up the bank and take Carlo hostage. They beat and humiliate him before dropping him off in a boatyard where the cops find him. Finding no help from the police, only interrogation and insinuations that perhaps he was in on the heist, Carlo decides the only justice available to him is to take matters into his own hands. However, just walking around in the seedier sides of town only gets him awkward glances and threats against his life, so he must find another way into this criminal side of humanity. He ultimately finds Tommy – a young thief who Carlo is able to photograph in the act, and uses these photos for blackmail. Now Carlo has Tommy as his run-between, but will he be able to go through with it and bring these villains down once and for all?

The Review: Franco Nero is a MAN. Even when he’s portraying a character who isn’t the “go out and bust some heads” action hero that he very well could play in all of his roles, he’s still this broad and masculine character who imposes his charisma on the screen. Although I know it isn’t usually my style to begin a review by complimenting the actors, I usually save that for the second or third paragraph (how predictable I am, eh?). I just can’t help myself this time. After watching Street Law you really begin to understand what makes Nero such a wonderful performer and why he’s so beloved by his fans. His contributions to Street Law are immense, but in almost all regards Street Law is a total success. It’s a heady mix of vigilantism, and the questions behind it, as well as pure adrenaline charged action. The movie jumps up from the start and takes off running at a breakneck pace. Although a lot of Poliziotteschi flicks are decently paced, the speed and rhythm of Street Law is definitely unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. The brains of the film are also a part in what makes it such a compelling watch, although one might not expect it. It delivers a rather simple morality tale but does so in an overblown style that somehow doesn’t become preachy or simplistic. Don’t expect to walk away with your mind blown from a lot of subtext and allegorical content, but for this sort of action flick there are enough ideas at work to validate much of its action. Beating the much more famous Charles Bronson vehicle Death Wish to the market by a year, without that knowledge it might be viewed as another one of the clones that Death Wish inspired – but Castellari & co. were ahead of the curve and delivered an equally entertaining take on similar content.

The allure to the eurocrime genre is somewhat elusive, as there are no simple reasons to explain the love that we fans have for these films. You can’t say they’re packed with disturbing violence or daring visuals – by and large they’re really not. It is also not terrible concerned with the intense emotional or unnerving dramatic thrills that the American mobster genre so often gives its audience. However, Street Law may be the most accessible and understandable of these brilliant works of Eurocult cinema. With an engaging story, heaps of low budget action and a guerrilla filmmaking modus-operandi – Street Law delivers and delivers and then delivers some more. Although the movie does feature some very necessary breaks from the action, by and large Street Law seems to feature an endless sequence of car chases and action sequences. Watching these vehicles speed through Rome at breakneck speeds without any closed off streets lets you begin to understand the magic of cinema from this time and era, when Italy was such a massive and exciting film market. Street Law reaches down deep and provides an ample amount of entertainment, but I can’t just gloss over the ideas behind the film. Vigilantism seems like such a non-European concept in film. In fact, on the DVD Castellari says that after the release of this film he was labeled my many as an “extremist” due to his giving the concept the benefit of the doubt. However, Castellari who remains a-political in all ways never had to worry about being blacklisted however due to how popular the film became.

What would a eurocrime flick be without some violence though? This is afterall the genre that inspired Quentin Tarantino to boast of it as ‘the bloodiest genre outside of the films of John Woo’ (paraphrasing of course). Usually the gun battles and action in this particular subgenre are relatively tame though, I must say. It was a very nice surprise to find that Street Law ramps up the bloodletting a bit in at least with two excitedly bloody gunfights. Not to mention the vicious beatings that Franco Nero must endure throughout the film. Speaking of Nero and his fight scenes (admittedly, it’s more like your traditional beatings on several occasions), he really surprises with the stunt work the film required. The film set must have been brimming with testosterone, between buffed out Castellari and the always game Nero, as I can think of few films where the lead actor (a very popular actor at that!) actually takes a swerving car smashing into their side, causing a backflip to faceplant maneuver that just has to be seen. There’s a keen sense of bravado that the film gives off, something that Castellari specializes in. Truthfully, after Great White (which I enjoyed mind you, but for all the wrong reasons) it’s amazing to see such a stylish and visionary piece of work from the same director. His visual sense is dead on in Street Law and his framing of action is top of the food chain. You really can’t find much wrong with Street Law, but if I had to nitpick I would say that there probably could have been a lot more done with the vigilantism concept and overall Death Wish is probably the more complete film of the two. Regardless, Street Law is a very entertaining and exciting Eurocrime caper. For new fans, check this one out asap.