Directed by Sergio Sollima.
Starring Oliver Reed, Fabio Testi, Paola Pitagora, Agostina Belli, and Daniel Beretta.
A prison warden is forced to facilitate the escape of a dangerous criminal but turns the tables on his blackmailers and unravels a larger conspiracy.
Revolver is a 1973 poliziotteschi movie that stars the legendary Oliver Reed as Vito Cipriani, a tough prison warden with a reputation for his high moral standards. After his wife is kidnapped Vito gets blackmailed to release dangerous criminal Milo Ruiz (Fabio Testi) otherwise his wife will be killed, but Vito turns the tables on his blackmailers, releasing Ruiz and kidnapping him himself, promising to release him when his wife is returned but by doing this he exposes a larger conspiracy than just a simple kidnapping.
Straight away you can tell that Revolver is a classier affair than the bulk of poliziotteschi around at the time. This could partly be down to the presence of Oliver Reed but credit must go to director Sergio Sollima and cinematographer Aldo Scavarda as Revolver is as slick as any crime movie that Hollywood was churning out at the time, and the overall look and feel raises the movie above many of its European contemporaries.
As with all poliziotteschi from the time there is a strong political and social undercurrent running through the plot, but most of the ideas flow around the character of Vito, his moral stance and what can make a strong moral character like Vito break. It all comes to a head in the final scene where, as with most Italian movies, you don’t get a clear resolve but you are able to try and interpret what it all means. It doesn’t help that Oliver Reed turns in a performance that is both magnificently sweaty and emotional, and overly sweaty and emotional at the same time; is he upset? Angry? About to cry? About to punch someone? More than likely all of those at the same time but it does make reading the director’s intentions a little foggy at times.
But given that this was peak Oliver Reed and the vineyard of wine that he had clearly consumed before every take was doing most of the work, his performance is always magnetic, commanding every scene he is in (which is most of them) and his interactions with Fabio Testi give off the kind of chemistry that the best buddy cop movies are built on. Even the fact that Reed dubbed his own dialogue in a very curious accent doesn’t take away from just how earnest and intense he gets.
Featuring one of Ennio Morricone’s finest scores, well-executed action set-pieces, manly men doing manly things and some none-more-1970s set dressing, Revolver could be accused of taking itself a little too seriously when put up against the likes of Ruggero Deodato’s Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man or Umberto Lenzi’s Almost Human but this is a movie that is clearly trying to be more than just a B-movie, and although it does fall foul of some of the poliziotteschi trappings Revolver never falls back on gratuitous sex or violence – both of which are quite restrained considering the time and place – for its thrills.
Coming backed with an entertaining audio commentary by author/critic Kim Newman and writer Barry Forshaw (which helps when the pace of the movie drops a bit), an interview with writer/film scholar Stephen Thrower, an archival interview with actor Fabio Testi, trailers and radio adverts, plus a booklet featuring essays on the movie and Ennio Morricone’s ‘Euro-crime’ soundtracks, this special edition Blu-ray is definitely worth collectors and poliziotteschi enthusiasts picking up as the extras are all worthy and the movie itself stands out amongst the plethora of more exploitative crime thrillers from the time just for being a little more ambitious. However, when looking to scratch the poliziotteschi itch – and we all get it – Revolver may not be the first, second or even third title you reach for if instant B-movie gratification is what you seek as it does require a little more attention and patience than most.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★