There’s one trait in Italian crime thrillers that I really admire. Nearly all of them, no matter how hyper stylised and cartoon like they may be during their running time, at the end they have a touch of realism. Rarely does the hero ride off into the sunset with his girl by his side. Think about EuroCrime favourite Maurizio Merli – how many times has he been shot in the back during the final reel?
Revolver is a not a cop film in the usual sense – American or Italian. It can be argued that the hero, Vito Cipriani (Oliver Reed) does make it to the end, and he has his girl by his side, but the film still ends on a cynical, realist note. Just before the credits roll, Cipriani’s wife, Anna (Agostina Belli) pulls away from him, disgusted at the man he has become. But as usual, I am getting ahead of myself – I am talking about the end credits and I’ve only just started the review.
Milo Ruiz (Fabio Testi) and his best friend are small time hoods. When this film opens it finds them running from the police after a robbery has gone wrong. Ruiz’s friend has been shot in the stomach and is losing a lot of blood. Ruiz manages to hot wire a car and the two of them make their getaway out of town. They pull up beside a stony river bed. Ruiz’s friend pleads not to allow the police to find his body. He doesn’t want to be taken to a morgue and chopped up by the coroner. Ruiz promises that won’t happen. After his friend has died, Ruiz buries him under some rocks by the river.
Some time later, we meet Vito Cipriani – the warden of an Italian prison. One afternoon he is called into the prison to deal with a prisoner, armed with a knife who is causing a riot in the prison’s hospital. Cipriani handles the situation quickly and effectively and then returns home to his wife, only to find she isn’t in the house. Cipriani then receives a telephone call from two men who have kidnapped his wife, Anna. They demand that Cipriani arranges the release from his prison, a prisoner named Milo Ruiz, or his wife will be killed. Cipriani hasn’t go much choice, but explores every avenue possible before agreeing to release Ruiz.
But rather than take the blame for Ruiz’s release, Cipriani makes it look like an escape. Cipriani takes Ruiz into an interrogation room and beats the crap out of him. This results in Ruiz being transferred to the prison’s hospital. Then Cipriani calls away the hospital guard giving Ruiz the opportunity to escape.
Ruiz grabs the opportunity with both hands, but once over the wall he is picked up at gunpoint by Cipriani. He isn’t the type to ‘hope’ that the kidnappers keep their side of the bargain. He wants Ruiz as a bargaining chip to make sure they keep to their word.
Trading Ruiz for Anna doesn’t go as planned. The kidnappers try to double cross Cipriani, and when that doesn’t work they flee with Anna to Paris. Meanwhile Ruiz and Cipriani form an uneasy alliance and both choose to follow the kidnappers to Paris to find and release Anna.
Revolver is a pretty good tough thriller. It may not have the same heart pounding car chase scenes that other popular Italian thrillers have, but it doesn’t need them. This film has a solid centre in the form of Oliver Reed. Reed gives a characteristically intense performance that drives this film on. Fabio Testi’s performance is lighter, and it times it seems like it is all a game to Ruiz. And in some ways it is a game. Not a particularly nice game, and one that seems to have the odds stacked fairly against the two anti-heroes.