Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Revolver (1973)

Revolver is a rather cynical 1973 Italian crime thriller with political overtones, not the sort of movie I’d normally watch except for the presence of Oliver Reed in the cast.

Reed is prison governor Vito Cipriani who becomes unwittingly involved in a complex web of political and criminal intrigue. Someone wants one of his prisoners out of gaol, and kidnaps his wife to force him to arrange the escape. Milo Ruiz is a petty criminal and he doesn’t know himself why anyone would want to go to such lengths to free him from incarceration. Vito is determined not just to get his wife back, but to make the kidnappers pay. He forms an unlikely alliance with Milo, and increasingly they discover that they’re both victims, and both pawns in a very big game.

Vito’s hunt for the kidnappers will take them both to France, and to the home of pop star Al Niko, whose connection with plots involving political assassinations seems even more unlikely than Milo’s. Both Vito and Milo will find themselves questioning their assumptions about each other and about themselves. Director Sergio Sollima was most interested in the idea that there are no clear-cut good guys and bad guys, and as he says in the accompanying featurette, it’s often the good guys who do the most harm.

The strange friendship that develops between these two mismatched characters provides the most interesting moments in the film. Oliver Reed and Fabio Testi (as Milo) deliver powerful and surprisingly subtle performances.

The plot is heavily laced with paranoia, and is formidably complex. There’s plenty of action and quite a bit of violence, but the violence is used effectively to underscore the increasingly anomalous position that Vito finds himself in, a lawman unable to turn to the law for help and having as his only reliable ally an habitual criminal.

Sergio Sollima’s direction is assured and very stylish. Ennio Morricone provides a memorable and effective score. The scenes involving pop star Al Niko include some of the most unforgettable fashion catastrophes of the 1970s.

The Blue Underground DVD includes a very short but reasonably interesting making-of featurette. Sollima remembers Oliver Reed with fondness, although he admits that after his 26th bottle of wine for the day he could become a little difficult, while Reed’s co-star Fabio Testi seems to have enjoyed working with him.

Revolver is a very dark and very pessimistic little movie, offering little hope for the triumph of justice or for ay worthwhile human ideals. Corruption is inescapable and all-pervasive. It’s entertaining and engrossing, and it’s a must for fans of Oliver Reed.

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