Bullet Points: Street Law (1974)
When I first came across the 1974 film, Street Law, I thought I had stumbled upon the Italian version of Death Wish with Franco Nero in the Charles Bronson role. Was that the case? Or is Street Law a very different movie than Death Wish? Let’s find out…
- The Premise: Franco Nero plays Carlo Antonelli, an engineer by trade but a man who would soon be pushed over the edge after a visit to the post office goes very wrong. On this routine stop to the post office, Antonelli is one of the many victims of a hold up. The four men who perpetrate this crime are bad news. They knock down a guy who was on crutches, they knock out a hysterical employee at the post office and cause dozens of people to fear for their lives. And when Antonelli makes the mistake of trying to take back the money he had put on the counter for his post office transaction, he gets taken hostage by the criminals. On a side note, I once sold an item on eBay to an Italian buyer. The woman at the post office warned me that it wasn’t safe to send something to Italy as packages were routinely stolen there. Not heeding this wise postal worker’s advice, I took a chance and sent the package anyway and like Carlo Antonelli, ended up becoming a victim in a crime involving the Italian post office.
- Compare and Contrast: Carlo has a girlfriend named Barbara (played by Barbara Bach of Force 10 from Navarone and The Spy Who Loved Me fame). After his ordeal with the criminals, a humiliated and frightened Carlo vows revenge, even going so far to say he would kill the men if he ever saw them again. But Barbara is there to rain on his parade, nagging him about how taking the law into his own hands is a dumb idea and telling him this isn’t the wild west (a setting Franco Nero was quite familiar with). This is an aspect of the movie that really does set it apart from Death Wish. The death of Paul Kersey’s wife in Death Wish was the catalyst for him taking the law into his own hands, which meant he didn’t have a significant other to nag him.
- If At First You Don’t Succeed: We are treated to an “information gathering montage” with Carlo going to seedy parts of town asking people if they can give him information on the four men who pulled the post office robbery. This doesn’t pan out, so then Carlo tries a different approach, a “research montage”. Carlo goes to the newspaper archives and tries to find clues that will help him get his revenge. During his research he comes across a story about some lower level hoods and before you know it, Carlo is stalking one of those small time hoods named Tommy (played by Giancarlo Prete of The New Barbarians fame). After he photographs Tommy doing some illegal activities, he uses the photos to blackmail Tommy into getting him closer to the criminal underworld.
- Friends In Low Places: Tommy develops a soft spot for Carlo and the two become unlikely allies. But things didn’t start out that way… first Tommy ditched Carlo with a hooker, then he attempted to steal Carlo’s car and the icing on this bad friend cake was when he watched as the four guys Carlo was looking for gave Carlo and ass whooping he’d never forget and then locked him up in some shack. Tommy does rescue Carlo and soon the two hatch a scheme to take down the men who nearly killed Carlo twice. They even have a dream of opening a garage together. I don’t think Paul Kersey would have ever knowingly teamed up with a criminal (although he unknowingly did so in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown) and he certainly wouldn’t have wanted to start a business with one.
In conclusion, Street Law is NOT the Italian version of Death Wish. I believed Nero more as a ninja in Enter the Ninja than I did him as a vigilante in Street Law. But you know what, I don’t think anyone was supposed to buy Nero’s character Carlo Antonelli as a vigilante. Antonelli was supposed to be that fed up, sick and tired, every man, who allows his emotions to get him in too deep. Fortunately with some help from a friend and relying on his brains and not his brawn he is able to overcome the odds.
So if you are in the mood for something different, travel back in time to the mid-70’s and enjoy this piece of Italian style action.
And if you are in the mood for some more of my Street Law review, enjoy these bonus Bullet Points…
- Gold Digger: At one point Barbara tells Carlo that he should at least marry her before he becomes a vigilante so she can get the insurance money.
- 1995: Bulletproof Action favorite, Jeff Wincott starred in a movie called Street Law in 1995. The film also starred Paco Christian Prieto of Only the Strong fame.
- Disturbing Quote: “I get my money and he gets it up the ass.”
- In The Beginning: The opening credits of Street Law feature scenes of the crime wave that Genoa was experiencing. The MVP of this sequence would have to be the guy who played the manager of a fur coat store that was robbed…