Monday, April 21, 2008

Manhunt (1972)

The Action Mutant…
knows it’s hard out there for a pimp.

Manhunt (1972)

review by Joe Burrows

Recent news: Apparently, if you want to fuck with the Olympic torch relay to Beijing, you have to go through Jackie Chan! As mentioned in this article and many others, Chan has gone on record in saying that he will intercept any publicity seekers that are out to interfere with the relay, which has already been beset by many bad incidents. Now, I won’t get into the politics of the matter (short story: protestors hate that China has the 2008 Olympics due to their stance on human rights, or lack thereof) but I think this is pretty kickass. Imagine it: an Action hero acting as such in real life. These types of instances have been few and far between since the renegade days of old H-Wood, where Steve McQueen saved Robert Blake from a ravenous mob by scaring them off with a shotgun or actors leaving to fight in WWII against the Kaiser Permanente. One can only wonder how the world of today would be different if more points of initiative were taken at key points of history. If only Bronson was alive in Ford’s Theater to take out John Wilkes Booth or someone went to ABC Headquarters and stopped them from cancelling Clerks: The Animated Series. Sorry, I just feel really strongly about that show. I mean c-mon…two episodes?

The Plot, as it was:
Mario Adorf portrays Luca Canali, a small time Milan pimp that gets caught up in quite the quandary. Luca is framed for stealing a shipment of heroin headed to New York and now everyone wants him dead for it. Not only is the local Don Vito Tresoldi (Adolfo Celi) out for Luca’s head but so are two American hitmen (Henry Silva and Woody Strode). Unknowing of the reasons for his pursuit and being pushed too far to the limit, Luca fights back and goes for vengeance of his own.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Oddly enough, when it comes to portrayals of the Italian mafia, very rarely do the mainstream portrayals come from the country itself. The Italian crime dramas of the 70s were more of the exploitive, Grindhouse type fare and although there’s a fair amount gratuitousness in Manhunt (aka La Mala ordina), I can’t imagine that there are many better than it in its genre. The film has a visceral grip on its audience from the very beginning and doesn’t let go through its 93 minute run time. Adorf, a character actor with a most esteemed career in Europe, has a grand presence and is easily the best thing here. His character may have a questionable profession but you can’t help but to like the guy, as he first comes off as a feckless, grinning goofball that cares for his estranged wife and kid. However, he becomes more driven and Adorf’s emotions are squarely on display in this metamorphosis. There is nothing fancy about the action, either: just full on and brutal with no compromise. The car chase during the film’s midsection (seemingly a prerequisite for a 70s Action/thriller) contains equal amounts of emotion and action and is the film’s highlight. Everything else is more uniform, from the plot to the dialogue to the lack of personality in the female characters (I mean, they’re whores, escorts or dancers here so there isn’t much range). Silva and Strode make the most of their performances with their presences and playing off of each others differences (Silva’s the talky lothario, while Strode is the sullen, consummate pro that will bail him out for the sake of business). All in all, the pros weigh out the cons in Manhunt and the ending makes for an exhausting conclusion to a sleazy, fun ride with a surprising heart to it.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Ulli Lommel (who, judging by IMDB ratings, may be the most reviled German director next to Uwe Boll…or Leni Riefenstahl) is a dancer in the club.

Body Count/Violence: 19. Though it doesn’t pile on the corpses like its contemporaries, Manhunt is vicious as the title indicates. There are some shootouts as well as plenty of brawls, car rundowns, cars being dropped onto people, windshield shattering and someone getting a spike in the throat. Along with the aforementioned car chase, there’s also a fair amount of pimp slaps (which is expected, given Luca’s calling in life).

Sexuality/Nudity: There’s tits as far as the eye can see in this film, whether they’re of the dance club or bedroom variety. There are various scenes of the topless variety, with at least one instance of full frontal female nudity taking stage.

Language/Dialogue: Briefly strong at times but not often.

How bad was it?:
As far as Italian made crime dramas go, this gets about the highest of praise in all of the reviews I’ve seen for it. Most of the praise goes to Fernando Di Leo’s direction and Adorf’s performance, as it should.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Being filmed on location in Milan, Manhunt was produced by Cineproduzioni Daunia 70 (among others) and released in Italy on 9/1/72. It was distributed by American International in the U.S. in a dubbed version and released on Halloween of 1973. Look for it on DVD or video under many titles such as Manhunt, Hitmen, Manhunt in the City, The Italian Connection and most odd, Black Kingpin (?).

Film: ***1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ****/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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