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September 23, 2013

Movie Review: Fernando Di Leo - The Italian Crime Collection Volume Two (Blu-ray)

To many Italian action enthusiasts, Fernando Di Leo is the best when it comes to crafting the perfect polizia or crime film. Raro Video released the popular box-set on Blu-ray with Fernando Di Leo: The Italian Crime Collection - Volume One a little over a year ago. Naturally, there had to be another release with more films as this master of Italian cult cinema had some other gems in his filmography, most notably, Naked Massacre, The Kidnap Syndicate and one of his finest creations, Shoot First, Die Later.
Shoot First, Die Later centers on Domenico Malacarene (Luc Merenda, Torso) a not-so squeaky clean cop who lives slightly better than his fellow officers because he accepts money from the city's crime syndicate. Outside from a little corruption here and there, Domenico actually seems like a regular guy who likes to spend time with his girlfriend, Sandra (Delia Boccardo, Massacre in Rome). The only problem here is he gets way in over his head. His father also works in the police department but doesn't quite dabble in these illicit affairs.

The action is pretty tight here as we get generous doses of ultra-violence (though not as explicit as other Di Leo films). Viewers are also treated to cars chases, shoot-outs and even a slobber-knocker of a fight with a drag queen. This is Italian polizia at its best folks. Not too many laughs here as the film is pretty serious but it's appropritate. Merenda is excellent and in all honesty looks like a mean version of Ashton Kutcher in his role. Ten times the actor, but the resemblance is uncanny to the That 70s Show star. Shoot First, Die Later may be the grimmest polizia that I've seen in recent memory but it's still an entertaining ride that packs a wallop from the vicious opening sequence to its jaw-dropping final scene.

From the title and the numerous cover, Naked Massacre reeks of exploitation. It's a little more than that. When a classroom full of hooligans gang rape and kill their teacher after drinking some extremely potent hooch, the kids find themselves getting a little more than detention. Every meat-head is interrogated by the cops, most of which are none too cooperative. 

In a lot of ways Naked Massacre feels like a sleazier version of Criminal Minds or one of those fancy CBS detective shows - but that doesn't take away from its effectiveness. While not really explicit depicting rape; the film opens some impressive camera work that adds a voyeuristic feel that makes the heinous act that much more vicious. This particular scene is photographed beautifully. While a bit slow Naked Massacre is still a very solid film.

Last but certainly not least, fans of Luc Merenda will be happy to know that Di Leo's film the Kidnap Syndicate stars the actor and features plenty of action that's comparable to their previous collaboration. Here Merenda puts away his police badge and picks up a wrench as he plays a mechanic dealing with the kidnapping and and subsequent murder of his son. Like most good fathers, he does the right thing and chooses to take violent revenge on the perpetrators. Merenda is awesome yet again here and this title proves to be yet another fine Di Leo production.

Raro Video has gone to great lengths to put forth a very nice looking transfer for this Blu-ray incarnation of the film. I noticed little wear on the element but was happy to see the colors pop the way they do for these films

There are some fine extra features on this box-set - A fully illustrated booklet about the film and two very insightful documentaries, The Master of the Game (Il Padrone del Gioco) and The Second Round of the Game (La seconda mano del gioco).
 The Master of the Game has an interview with Di Leo where he opens up about has films and even his writing for other directors. Another cool documentary features some cast and crew from Shoot Now, Die Later and even includes the star Luc Merenda. Both are in Italian language and carry English subtitles. Naked Violence and Kidnap Syndicate each have some cool extras as well. It's pretty packed in the supplement department.  

Overall, this box-set is a fantastic follow-up to volume one and with any luck we’ll get even more releases with the name “Di Leo” on the cover from the fine folks at Raro Video.

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