Written by: George Pacheco on June 12th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1974
Director: Fernando di Leo
Writers: Fernando di Leo, Sergio Donati
Cast: Luc Merenda, Richard Conte, Delia Boccardo, Raymond Pellegrin, Gianni Santuccio, Vittorio Caprioli, Salvo Randone
DVD Released: May 28th, 2013
Approximate running time: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: Raro USA
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Raro Video-based in Italian with brand spankin’ new U.S. distribution via Kino Lorber-scored a coup amongst diehard Eurocult film enthusiasts in early 2012 when they released the Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection, a packaging of four classic and influential Italian crime films from the early 1970s.
This landmark release received critical accolades almost across the board from fans and journalists who had been clamoring for domestic, high definition releases of Di Leo’s ultra-violent and stylish thrillers, the likes of which had inspired such modern filmmakers as Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino in their wake. A demand of equal clamor soon erupted from the rabidly devoted cult film crowd for a second volume, a call for which Raro-after a number of delays and false starts-finally answered earlier this year with their long-awaited announcement of the Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection Vol. 2.
Shoot First, Die Later is the only film in the forthcoming collection to receive a standalone release on DVD and Blu-Ray-although two other films in the collection, 1975’s Kidnap Syndicate and 1969’s Naked Violence, have received single disc release abroad-and with good reason: it’s a grim and vicious cop thriller which pulls no punches with regards to corruption and the lengths one might go to obtain redemption.
The film stars famed Eurocult face Luc Merenda as Inspector Domenico Malacarne, a cop on the take from the city’s mob underground. Malacarne takes kickback in exchange for information on raids and police presence throughout the city, all unbeknownst to his warrant office father, an otherwise proud parent who is overjoyed at his son’s position of respect and influence among the city’s police force.
This arrangement works out just fine for Malacarne until one fateful day, when a nosy neighborhood gossip (and his pet cat) accidentally become the object of mafia attention. Malacarne, when pressured by the mob to acquire a crucial piece of evidence from his father’s station, doesn’t exactly play ball to the gang’s liking, which kicks off a ruthless bit of warfare between the Inspector and his former benefactors…with father, neighbor and even a little kitty at the center of a serious bit of violent repercussion.
Shoot First, Die Later might not exist in the upper echelon of the Di Leo crime thrillers previously released by Raro, yet the film still manages to shock in the same manner of stark and gritty realism, echoing the timeless inspiration of its American counterparts in Dirty Harry and The French Connection. Di Leo never fails to paint Merenda’s character in the negative light it deserves, despite Malacarne’s desperate search for redemption, approval and the ultimate love from his father.
The elder Malacarne, seemingly incorruptible, is obviously shocked when he uncovers the secret of his son’s fall from grace, and Di Leo paints this celluloid portrait of a father’s sad disappointment with real emotion, aided wonderfully by Salvo Randone’s strong performance. Elsewhere, the ever-trustworthy visage of American Richard Conte is reliable as the slimy behind-the-scenes man Mazzanti, while Merenda himself holds on the reigns of his focal point role in a firm grip of control.
There isn’t much flash to be spoken of here in Shoot First, Die Later, but there really isn’t a demand for it, really. Instead, Di Leo’s turns his focus towards his actors, the story and the resulting violence of their surroundings, of which no one is spared. This unfortunately includes a scene of real animal abuse-involving a pet kitty-later on in the film which can be a little difficult to watch, despite assurances that the cat in question did not, in fact, perish from its experience.
This aside, it’s bullets and business as usual for this Di Leo work; a film which balances the social complexities of 1970s Italy well with the sort of slam-bang action most fans of this poliziotteschi genre expect when delving into this genre.
This review originally appeared at Examiner.com and is reprinted here with permission.
Note: The images used in this review are taken from the Blu-Ray release for this film and more info about that release can be found here.