Free Hand For a Tough Cop, 1976.
Directed by Umberto Lenzi.
Starring Tomas Milian, Henry Silva, Claudio Cassinelli, Nicoletta Machiavelli, and Dana Ghia.
A cop recruits a criminal and his cohorts to help track down a violent crime lord who has kidnapped the ill daughter of a rich family.
When it comes to knock-offs of popular Hollywood movies then nobody does it better than the Italians, and when it comes to prolific Italian filmmakers working within this brief then Umberto Lenzi takes some beating. Free Hand For a Tough Cop is one of the many poliziottesco – otherwise known as Euro-Crime – movies that came out of Italy in the wake of Dirty Harry and Bullitt in the early 1970s, and these basically dispense with the plot nuances of those higher profile movies and up the violence, making most of the movies feature-length car chases and shootouts with the occasional flash of nudity thrown in.
Which pretty much makes any poliziottesco movie a guaranteed winner if all you fancy is a couple of hours of basic-level genre stereotypes and cliches mixed in with your blood squibs and car wrecks, and Free Hand For a Tough Cop doesn’t disappoint on that basis as our weathered cop hero Inspector Antonio Sarti (Claudio Cassinelli) is on the trail of Brescianelli (Henry Silva), a nasty piece of work who has kidnapped the daughter of an important family but the little girl has a kidney disorder so time is of the essence to get her back before she dies.
Unfortunately, Brescianelli has had plastic surgery and Sarti is having trouble finding him so, in a fit of genius, he recruits petty criminal Sergio ‘Monnezza’ Marazzi (a.k.a. Garbage Can) by springing him from jail so he can use his gangster connections to find the kingpin. Use a criminal to find a criminal – sounds easy, yes?
In theory but this being the Italian criminal underworld in the 1970s everybody seems to be connected, nobody trusts anybody, and everyone has a gun so expect the bullets to fly, which they do thanks to Umberto Lenzi’s busy direction, which means nearly every scene is an action set piece. In fact, the only thing that could spoil such a monumental rush of adrenaline for the 90-minute runtime would be some awkward comedy delivered by way of bad dubbing and a silly performance, and Tomas Milian seems happy to provide just that as Garbage Can, a character that could easily have been a parody dreamt up by Harry Enfield or Vic & Bob wearing a bad wig, some fake teeth and pulling stupid faces. Milian’s eccentric performance is so overwhelming that it does make Claudio Cassinelli’s laid-back, almost lethargic, performance more palatable, but neither actor nor character is particularly endearing, making the ever-dependable Henry Silva the most engaging presence in the movie.
Free Hand For a Tough Cop is the third release from up-and-coming genre label Fractured Visions and comes packed with extras, including two separate audio commentaries, cast and crew interviews, a short but fascinating featurette on Umberto Lenzi and his Euro-Crime movies, art cards and a collector’s booklet featuring new writings on the film and an interview with Lenzi, all packed in a rigid slipcase featuring some cool artwork. The film itself looks clean and sharp without being too sparkly, keeping the necessary grit in place with the tidied-up colour palette, and if you have a decent sound system then the bangs and pops of the near-constant gunfire will test your audio settings to the full.
In the rankings of poliziottesci movies Free Hand For a Tough Cop sits squarely in the middle, being a fun and violent action crime movie with plenty of fast cars (or sped-up film of fairly slow cars) and criminal goons being blasted to death by shouty villains with endless supplies of ammunition but the talky bits in between will test even the hardiest of Euro-Crime purists thanks to some of the shoddiest dubbing heard outside of a Hong Kong film festival and a painfully irritating performance from Tomas Milian. Nevertheless, if Fractured Visions can keep releasing previously-hard-to-get genre movies in packages of this quality then that should build into a collection worth owning.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★