Genre: Poliziotteschi/ Action/ Drama/ Suspense
Director: Umberto Lenzi
TRASH CINEMA RECOMMENDED MOVIE
Henry Silva has one of the least reassuring smiles in cinema, like a grinning shark, even when he’s supposed to be a happy family man, as in Manhunt In The City.
When the eight year old daughter of David Vannucchi (Henry Silva) is killed in a bank robbery, we’re primed to expect Silva to go all Charles Bronson on the perpetrators, but screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti and writer/director Umberto Lenzi have something more thoughtful in mind.
In the mid-70s, there was an epidemic of lawlessness in Italy. Manhunt In The City dramatizes the feelings of helplessness and outrage of the citizenry.
Vannucchi is far from a crazed vigilante. He’s an ordinary man who wants the criminals who murdered his daughter to pay for their crime. But he comes to understand that the function of the police is largely political, to give the illusion of order, rather than the real thing. A vigilante citizen’s group approaches him, but they turn out to be fascistic jackbooted thugs.
Not content to wait for justice from the police that might never come, Vannucchi decides to hire an investigator to help him track down the perpetrators, with the intent of handing them over the authorities on a silver platter. This gets him into even worse trouble.
Although it seems at first like a typical apologia for vigilante violence, Manhunt In The City develops into a thoughtful examination of the issues surrounded lawlessness and the possible responses to it. All we can be sure of by the end of the picture is that the Italian law enforcement and justice system is profoundly broken. Manhunt In The City, instead of providing answers, simply asks more questions.
In a way, Manhunt In The City is subversive. By casting Henry Silva, we expect a vigilante thriller. And the movie seems to be going in that direction, too for the first half hour. But once it hooks the audience, it starts systematically challenging their preconceptions.
This is not to say that Manhunt In The City isn’t entertaining. Far from it. I enjoyed waiting for Henry Silva to explode into violence (he does, eventually). The twists and turns of the plot always maintain interest. And the groovy score by Bruno Nicolai is fun in and of itself.
The end result? One of the better Poliziotteschi pictures of the 70s.
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