Directed by Sergio Sollima.
Starring Oliver Reed, Fabio Testi, Paola Pitagora, Agostina Belli and Daniel Beretta.
Forced to facilitate the escape of a dangerous criminal, a prison guard turns the tables on his blackmailers and uncovers a larger conspiracy.
revolver is a 1973 Poliziotteschi film starring the legendary Oliver Reed as Vito Cipriani, a tough prison guard known for his high moral standards. After his wife is kidnapped, Vito is blackmailed into releasing dangerous criminal Milo Ruiz (Fabio Testi), otherwise his wife will be killed, but Vito turns the tables, releasing Ruiz and kidnapping him himself, promising to release him if his Woman returns but in doing so he unmasks a larger conspiracy than just a simple kidnapping.
You notice that immediately revolver is a nobler affair than the mass of Poliziotteschi at the time. This could be partly due to the presence of Oliver Reed, but credit must go to director Sergio Sollima and cinematographer Aldo Scavarda as revolver is as sophisticated as any crime thriller Hollywood was producing at the time, and its general appearance sets the film apart from many of its European contemporaries.
As with all Poliziotteschi of the period, there is a strong political and social undertone running through the plot, but most of the ideas revolve around the character of Vito, his moral stance and what can thwart a strong moral character like Vito. It all comes to a head in the final scene where, like most Italian films, you don’t get a clear resolve, but you try to interpret what it all means. It doesn’t help that Oliver Reed delivers a performance that’s both great sweaty and emotional and overly sweaty and emotional at the same time; is he upset? Upset? about to cry? To hit someone? Most likely all at once, but it makes reading the director’s intentions a little foggy at times.
But since that was Oliver Reed’s pinnacle, and the vineyard he clearly drank before each shot did most of the work, his performance is always magnetic, dominating every scene he’s in (which most of them are), and his interactions with Fabio Testi deliver the kind of chemistry that the best buddy cop movies are built on. Even the fact that Reed dubbed his own dialogue with a very odd accent doesn’t take away from how serious and intense it gets.
Featuring one of Ennio Morricone’s finest scores, well-executed action set pieces, manly men doing manly things, and some set dressings that are no longer 1970s. revolver could be accused of taking itself a little too seriously when confronted with the likes of Ruggero Deodato Live like a cop, die like a man or Umberto Lenzis Almost human but this is a film that’s clearly trying to be more than just a B-movie, and although it does run afoul of some Poliziotteschi trappings revolver never resorts to gratuitous sex or violence – both of which are fairly reticent given the time and place – for his thrills.
Accompanied by entertaining audio commentary by writer/critic Kim Newman and writer Barry Forshaw (who helps when the film slows down a bit), an interview with writer/film scholar Stephen Thrower, an archive interview with actor Fabio Testi, and trailers and radio commercials and a booklet with essays on the film and Ennio Morricone’s “Euro-Crime” soundtracks. This special edition Blu-ray is definitely worth buying for collectors and Poliziotteschi enthusiasts, as the extras are all worthy and the film itself sets itself apart from the plethora of more exploitative crime thrillers of the time simply because they were a bit more ambitious. However, when we try to scratch the Poliziotteschi itch – and we all get it – revolver may not be the first, second, or even third title you reach for when you’re looking for instant B-movie gratification, as it requires a little more attention and patience than most.
Flickering Myth Rating – Movie: ★★★ / Movie: ★★★