Here's one of my absolute favourites of the Eurocrime era that turns just about everything about genre on its head. There's no indestructible heroes here. No massive gun battles either. There's barely even a romantic subplot, unless you count the bromance between Nero and Prete. Hell, everyone even stops to reload their guns - that's how realistic this one is!
Castellari begins by showing us three hoods breaking in to an apartment and wrecking it, even pissing on a framed newspaper article from the second World War regarding the liberation of Italy. We then get a credits sequence that, set to an awesome prog soundtrack, details the crime wave in Genoa. Finally, we get to the actual plot, starting off with mild mannered Franco Nero going to the Post Office to cash out his earnings.
Franco's world is shattered when three violent hoods rob the Post Office, rough up a few folk (including a priest), then take Franco hostage for standing up for himself. It's during the car chase that follows that we meet the robbers for real. There's huge, violent Romano Puppo, small, violent Massimo Vanni, and some other guy (also violent). They beat Franco senseless and leave him in the car for the police to find while they switch cars and speed off.
Franco finds that the police aren't going to be much help and decides to take the law into his own hands, much to the annoyance of police detective Renzo Palmer, and even more to the annoyance of his girlfriend Barbara Bach. It's around this time that we realise it was Franco Nero's apartment was the one that was trashed at the start of this film, and that the newspaper article was a kept by Franco as a memory of his father, who was executed by the Nazis. It's therefore understandable that Franco rises up against the criminals and tries to track them down. The problem that soon becomes evident is that he's really, really bad at it!
So instead of having a kick ass killing machine mowing down half of Genoa's criminals, we have Franco Nero getting a drubbing from some petty gangsters and generally getting caught out stalking other criminals. That is until he gets the idea to start blackmailing armed robber Giancarlo Prete. Using Giancarlo, he starts edging closer to the post office robbers, but in doing so Franco uncovers corruption and starts feeling guilty about blackmailing Prete, until things come to a head at the end.
I'm not sure why people have issues with Nero's performance here, because he does fine as the stubborn citizen who risks losing everything for revenge. His watery eyed look of shock as he underestimates the violent capacity of his enemies is worth the wait, as is the performance of Prete as a petty criminal who wants out of the life he's stuck in. Barbara Back hasn't got much to do mind you, but Romano Puppo and Massimo Vanni comes across as nasty, over confident hoods who might be violent, but are still out-smarted by Nero. Here's a special paragraph dedicated to the soundtrack:
Special paragraph dedicated to the soundtrack: There are basically two pieces of music that make up the soundtrack, with many different variations. One is 'Goodbye My Friend', a proggy rock tune, and the other is 'Driving All Around', a bongo driven funk track sung by a man who sounds drunk. Both work really well in all their variations, and although we get hints of Driving All Around, the song is introduced proper when Franco gains his first true lead. "Goodbye My Friend" is also used to great effect when Franco thinks the cops are going to bust his enemies, with the music crashing to a halt to allow Franco to scream in frustration.
Also adding to the package as a whole, as usual, is Enzo's hyperactive camerawork and inventive editing that makes a plot that should bore much more interesting and appealing.
So there we go. One of the best. Most of the cast would return again and again in Enzo's work. Puppo, Vanni and Palmer would return for Enzo's next Eurocrime project: The Big Racket!