Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mario Gariazzo's The Bloody Hands of the Law (La mano spietata della legge) (1973)

I used to not be tolerant towards those who were intolerant and violent, says Commissario Gianni de Carmine (Philippe Leroy) to his breathtakingly beautiful lady, Linda (Silvia Monti). Now, he continues, I've become more violent and intolerant than anyone. The Commissario feels powerless on his current case: he believes that he is unable to make any progress because of newly-enacted criminal procedural laws: in other words, de Carmine is unable to beat upon his suspects to induce a confession or a promising lead, because nearly all criminals know that if he remains silent, then he will definitely walk. The Commissario feels justified with his violent methods: the criminals aren't adhering to any procedural rules and are terrorizing and killing innocent citizens. Leroy's de Carmine is correct: he is powerless on his current case. However and most importantly, the Commissario powerfully misunderstands the dynamics of his current situation and is equally powerfully misguided as to how to solve it. A familiar theme within polizieschi cinema plays out in a very polarized way in Mario Gariazzo's The Bloody Hands of the Law (Le mano spietata della legge) (1973).
The local syndicate, led by Vito Quattroni (Klaus Kinski), picks up an international passenger at the airport and takes him to a hideout. Donning a disguise and infiltrating some high security, the international passenger reveals himself a very slick hitman upon an unsuspecting mark. The hitman's vacation is over in Italy, and as seemingly quickly as the syndicate picked the hitman up, they coolly drop him off at the airport for his flight home. The local police, led by Leroy's de Carmine, catch a break with the airport's security video and identify the perpetrator. They put a picture of the suspect in the newspaper, hoping to catch another break in the case. A young woman working at an information kiosk at the airport saw the perpetrator and can identify the man who picked him up. The police begin to build their case with witnesses and collect evidence, yet the local crime syndicate is able to erase any trace of evidence and dispatch any witnesses before any real information is collected. Gariazzo, who also penned the script for Bloody Hands, presents the police and the criminal organization as mirror images. Both are evolved. Both are state of the art. Both use information as their primary tool. The police are able to use video, criminal identification databases, the media, criminal informants, and the like to help in their investigation. Although the film is set in Italy and focuses on the local crime syndicate, Gariazzo presents his criminal organization as part of a worldwide network with access to myriad funds, hitmen, hideouts, and informants of their own to perpetrate their crimes. This use of information has perhaps presented a stalemate for both sides, with one side inevitably about to break.
The portrayal of the actions by the criminal syndicate are rendered by Gariazzo with a mathematical precision. The opening sequence, presided over by a sinister-looking and brooding Kinski, without words, are efficient: airport pick-up; hideout drop-off; prep; and execution. A later sequence at a disco with Pia Giancaro, as Lilly Antonelli, the roommate of the witness at the airport, is even more meticulous and calculated (and cleverly rendered). The criminals with pinpoint precision attempt to remove Antonelli's keys from her purse while she's with her date, make the hit at the apartment upon her roommate, and put the keys back into her purse with no one the wiser. Kinski's character performs the hit in the apartment, and the killing is as cold as the scheme.
The police, however, are unable to get beyond the first step in their investigation, only to have to start over when a critical witness is murdered. De Carmine believes "meeting force with force" is the solution, the use of violence against the criminals, and he gets the approval of his superiors for this method. His decision to become aggressive is somewhat successful in his investigation, but ultimately, de Carmine decision becomes his tragic and fatal flaw. What de Carmine fails to recognize is that the violence is constant and ever-present. (In a purely exploitative scene, Luciano Rossi, playing to the hilt in a familar role as the depraved, unhinged henchman, attempts to rape one of the witnesses who has been kidnapped by the local crime group. Kinski, again with few words and his trademark piercing, intense looks, kills the witness and ruthlessly takes to Rossi's character with a blowtorch.) De Carmine's character isn't necessarily as he confesses later in the film, intolerant and violent but impatient. In his overwhelming desire to put an end to organized crime, Leroy's de Carmine fails to recognize his own limits and abilities and what he's capable of truly achieving.
Gariazzo's script and direction are worthy of praise with The Bloody Hands of the Law. He's able to keep some fairly provocative and interesting themes constant in the foreground of the film side by side with the typical motifs of the genre, such as shootouts, car chases, and disco scenes. Even if the viewer just wanted to passively watch the action unfold, Bloody Hands doesn't disappoint in this arena. Leroy is quite intense in his role, and his scenes with Silvia Monti were always welcomed, as showing his vulnerability made him a more human character. Klaus Kinski appears in what seems another role performed presumably quickly and for the cash but Kinski always brings to his roles something undefinable. A true presence, any director was fortunate to have him on screen, as he often gave intense performances. He doesn't disappoint Gariazzo, here, and is quite good. Monti and Giancaro are terrific as Linda and Lilly, respectively. Stelvio Cipriani delivers another brilliant score. The Bloody Hands of the Law is definitely worth seeing.

1 comment:

Neil Fulwood said...

Once again, you've brought a film to my attention that I had no knowledge of but I'll be making a definite point of tracking down. This sounds like the kind of boiled-down, noirish, unpretentious crime film that I love, and Kinski in any role is always worth watching. As you point out, he brought something undefinable to every character he played. It might have been because of his utter unpredictability as a person. Apparently, on the set of 'Venom', director Piers Haggard had to film Kinski's set-ups on different days to Oliver Reed's because the antagonism between the two actors was so powerful he feared they'd do each other serious harm.