Revolver (1973)

(aka: Blood In The Streets; In The Name Of Love)


After bungling a burglary with his mortally wounded partner, ultra-smooth small-time criminal Milo Ruiz (Testi) sees his extravagant lifestyle come to a sudden halt behind bars. At the same point in time, a high-profile oil magnate is shot dead on the streets of Milan by a motorcycle assassin. The abandoned motorcycle, and broken body of the apparent "shooter", are found by authorities, in turn linking back to current pop sensation Al Niko (Berretta). Three disparate motifs, all seemingly unconnected, until former homicide detective Vito Cipriani's (Reed) wife is kidnapped, and her kidnappers proffer her life in exchange for the release of a prisoner from the Monza facility that he governs, one Milo Ruiz.

Even though Ruiz professes no knowledge of the extortion claim, Cipriani engineers his escape with designs on a swift resolution to his anguish. Once Ruiz is out, the unlikely pair discover all too soon that there are more politically connected motives behind both Anna's (Belli) kidnapping, and Ruiz' newfound freedom. As the kidnappers begin a frustratingly cruel cat and mouse game with Cipriani, a far reaching conspiracy begins to reveal itself. One so great, that it will see both men flee the border into neighbouring France in an attempt to uncover the truth. But the truth is the one element that seems to elude them at every turn and, as tempers flare, their own very survival becomes that of utmost uncertainty.

An Italian crime thriller in the hallowed pages of the horror haven that is SGM? You must all be thinking that I'm stark raving mad, right? But hey, per the output of any film industry there is, every now and then, a film so damn good that its cross-over appeal is beyond reproach, and Sergio Sollima's "Revolver" is one of those films. I'm the first to admit that my experience with the cinema of Sollima is decidedly thin, outside of a drive-in screening of his legendary Spaghetti Western "The Big Gundown" (1967) on the bottom half of a double-bill in the late seventies. However, many would argue (and rightly so) that the genres of Italian cinema that made up the giallo and crime facet were notoriously at their peak in the early to mid-seventies. "Revolver" cements that conception will little question. Sollima admits, in the accompanying featurette on Blue Underground's superb DVD, that when the script was brought to him initially, that it was not good, whereupon he decided to take up the director's chair on the proviso that the centrepiece of the narrative became the relationship of the two protagonists (Reed and Testi). Thankfully, all parties agreed, and what remains is an underrated, and unsung, minor masterpiece of the Italian crime genre.

Even at ten minutes shy of two hours, Sollima never once lets the pace flag, nor the tension breathing space to ease, and it is to his credit that the final product works as well as it does, as well as engages its audience at an emotional gut level keeping them on the edge of their seats with the protagonists. Equal credit must of course go to the striking performances of the male leads, Oliver Reed and Fabio Testi (ironically, both of whom appear to have been post-dubbed by other voice actors). Reed's character, driven by the quest for answers, and Testi's, driven by the necessity to elude death, by functioning on differing paths of resolution, become fiercely compelling as their paths ultimately converge in their lust for final truth. Come the finale, it is hard to divest oneself enough from the characters to even contemplate what the film may have become in the hands of lesser actors or, for that matter, to assimilate the notion of any actors bar those chosen to play the roles that they do. Sollima, Reed, Testi - it's a fine ensemble.

As Reed and Testi form their first-hand uneasy alliance, playing off the darker shades of their respective characters wonderfully as the story progresses, it is Sollima's deft hand that keeps the audience on edge (through the tension of the kidnapping plot-thread) throughout the entire course of the film. Obviously, being an Italian production, the film maintains a much harder, brutal edge than most of its American contemporaries of the time, with just enough bloody violence, cold-blooded murder, and tough-as-nails fisticuffs to catch the casual viewer unawares (surprisingly, there's a proliferation of uses of the "f" word for its time too). Choreographed to a supremely robust, as well as instantly unforgettable, score by the legendary Ennio Morricone "Revolver" is a powerhouse crime thriller that has been vastly overlooked, and critically neglected. Its leads will captivate you, its kidnapping plot will keep you guessing (it may even frustrate you for Reed's character, as it did I), and its finale will take the very breath right from your mouth. For anyone with even a passing interest in Italian cinema, this is a compulsory must-see event.

Would "Revolver" have received such a rapturous write-up without the efforts of Blue Underground and the stellar work invested in their disc release? Yes, most assuredly, but their work here is commendable for bringing a forgotten masterpiece to a wider audience in spectacular fashion. Letterboxed at 1.85 and anamorphically enhanced, the transfer looks simply gorgeous. Rich colours, fine detail, and near flawlessly clean. The razor sharp transfer is aided and abetted by a fine Dolby 2-channel mono audio that serves both the film, and Morricone's rich score, extremely well.

Extras consist of the interview featurette "Revolver: Calling the Shots" which headlines Sollima and Testi reminiscing about the film and their late co-star (it also comes with a "spoiler" warning, but you'd be very ill advised to watch this before the film as it gives away the ending). Other extras consist of both the US and international trailer (quite a comparison!), a couple of radio spots, a stills and poster gallery, and some fairly comprehensive biographies for Reed, Testi, Sollima and Morricone. In summation, a nigh on perfect presentation for a near perfect thriller. Oh, and don't forget the Easter Egg

Review by Mike Thomason

Released by Blue Underground
Region All - NTSC
Not Rated
Ratio - Widescreen 1.85 (16:9)
Extras :
Making Of featurette; Theatrical trailers; Radio spots; Stills & Artwork gallery; Cast & Crew profiles