Director: Fernando Di Leo
Starring: Gastone Moschin, Mario Adorf, Barbara Bouchet. .UK. 1h 42m
Well famed for being the ultimate super cool, cult hit, this is the first of a trio of virtuoso politicization films, the following movies, La Mala ordina/The Italian Connection and Il Boss/The Boss, are all based on a short story collection all using the original names by Giorgio Scerbanenco. Each film stands out for their own powerful impact with straight forward stories harnessing beautiful women, treachery and tons of gratuitous violence.
The movie opens with a montage of brutality, an evil henchman, who turns out to be Rocco (Adorf) whose’ mission is to take out anyone who worked as a money courier for his Boss, they need to tighten up their operation and everyone is expendable, people are shot, beaten and at one point exploded just to prove a point. Despite this dark first chapter, Caliber 9 is wonderfully scripted, acted and accompanied by a catchy soundtrack from progressive Italian rockers Osanna.
As the movie hits the ground running and continues at a seriously hectic pace, keeping it’s star and audience on their toes there’s a tasty plot to unravel. The star is the gruff silent type, G Moschin, plays Ugo Piazza, a criminal who has just been released from prison and is instantly on everyone’s radar. Just before being arrested Ugo was mid heist, but the money he was supposed to have stolen was never found. His Gang, his girl and the local police all believe that he stole the $30,000 (192K today) of drop off cash and everyone wants a piece of it. For the mob it’s a matter of principles and what’s right, for the cops it’s just another bend transaction.
“I can’t help you there but I wish you all the best”
De Leo had screen written a host of Spaghetti Westerns under his belt by the time he had gotten to Caliber 9, with a handful of Giallo already made, it feels as if he was upping the ante with this unfeeling thriller. Setting out a harsh criminal moral code and showing you the lengths these deranged individuals will go to if the rules are broken, it’s easy to get lost in the warfare and forget that as an audience you’re also playing detective to try and work out where the money has gone. For sure a lot of people totally lost track of the plot when Barabara, who plays Ugo’s girlfriend, gets to work as a stripper in a bar.
“You… do not kill a man like Ugo Piazza, TREACHEROUSLY!”
Caliber 9 has a ton of cool one liners, and strange comedy moments, at one point Rocco is talking to a courier, he asked him to check a package cos “you might have been screwed” he pulls his ear away from the phone as the courier and the phone box he’s standing in, is blown up, carefully putting down the phone he announces ” he got screwed”. Everyone is expendable. With more violence than you can shake a stick at and some booty shaking the movie has it all and never drops the pace. Ugo is such a complex character, having to navigate a world where everyone wants a piece of him, he’s threatened, roughed up and intimidated by anyone who crosses his path and yet he still has to get various jobs done and be romantic with his girl. De Leo does an absolutely brilliant job at making the movie mimic the feel of the vice which Ugo is trapped in and with an ending worth waiting for it’s a totally notable cult classic from beginning to end.
Related: Hired to Kill (1972), Il Boss (1973) Young Violent and Dangerous (1976), Mr Scarface (1976) Italian Connection (1972),
Lists: 17 Films from 1972 Still Worth Talking About, 10 Great Italian Movies from 1972 Still Worth Talking About, 10 of my favourite poliziotteschi Movies