Claudio Cassinelli is Raul "The Cat" Montalbani in Mario Caiano's Bloody Payroll (1976). As its English-language title suggests, Montalbani and his crew (including a drug-addicted psycho, Fausto (John Steiner)) head to a local corporation to rob its payroll money, and also as its English-title suggests, the heist doesn't go well. The crew of four manage to smack the employees around a little bit while collecting the dough. The police arrive and two of the crew get away, leaving Montalbani and Fausto inside. The police give chase to the fleeing two, while a hostage standoff happens at the corporation. The two make a successful getaway, along with all of the cash from the heist. Montalbani convinces the police to exchange the hostages for a getaway car and safe passage. The police agree, even though Montalbani's killed one of the hostages and thrown his corpse out the window. With two hostages in tow, Montalbani and Fausto exit, only to inadvertently get spotted by patrolling officers at a gas station. Fausto and Montalbani split. Fausto dies and Montalbani's pissed. This is just the beginning: Bloody Payroll is about get bloodier, as Montalbani's out to get his cash and more importantly, revenge.Along with Weapons of Death (1977), Mario Caiano delivers with Bloody Payroll, two of the best films of the Italian Eurocrime genre in the 70s. Claudio Cassinelli is one bad motherfu**er as "The Cat," who doesn't care about anybody or anything, except getting his money. Anyone who has seen him play cops, such as in Massimo Dallamano's What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974) or little-seen and underrated Umberto Lenzi's Free Hand for a Tough Cop (1976), knows that good-looking and unassuming Cassinelli can play intense and focused. However, when he's on the other side of the law, his character becomes downright nasty. The two thugs that's he's after aren't angels, either; they're going around killing the ones who knew about the heist and their current whereabouts. If Raul manages to find them, they plan on killing him, too. Fortunately for Raul, he finds the getaway-car supplier's girlfriend before his cohorts do. Her name is Leila, played by Silvia Dionisio. She's a pro, and Raul picks her up while she's working. Thinking he's a john, she takes Raul back to her apartment and Raul roughs her up. She gives up the location of the hiding two heisters. Raul's off to confront them, but still, Bloody Payroll has much more to play out.The score is by Gianfranco Plenizio and it's a swinging jazzy score, almost dated by a decade. Save Silvia Dionisio's performance, it's about the only sweet thing in this production. Bloody Payroll is gritty and violent. Even the police scenes, as they track Raul, are played without theatrics: the cops move with an intense investigative focus (also totally credible), because they know how dangerous the criminals are. Caiano drops in some cold compositions that really stick with the viewer:
Caiano also really shows a command of the action sequences of which there are several. The car chase scene after the heist is phenomenal: he uses multiple shots with some crafty editing to make this one (and I've seen a bunch) one of the most exciting that I've ever seen. The violence is hard-hitting and Raul's character (and Cassinelli's performance) is a perfect vehicle for it: one way or the other, he's going to get what he wants. Dionisio's Leila is also an interesting character: she latches on to Raul because she believes he's strong enough to take her out of her current life and into a better one. She's truly incredulous that someone could be so cold and uncaring, even after she plays loving nursemaid and on-call lover to him. Dionisio is a fine actress with some of my favorite performances in Paul Morrissey's Blood for Dracula (1974), and Ruggero Deodato's Wave of Lust (1975), alongside Al Cliver and John Steiner. Bloody Payroll doesn't really roll on what's unexpected: its execution is just done unexpectedly well. See it.