Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man

Director: Ruggero Deodato  
Marc Porel, Ray Lovelock, Adolfo Celi

If you are a B movie fan, more likely than not you are a fan of a wide range of the different genres so many B movies have tackled. There is of course the horror genre, with the many sub-genres found in this genre like slasher films, zombie films, and killer animal films. Then there is the science fiction genre and the many sub-genres in this category like visions of post-apocalypse environments, visits to Earth by aliens, and sagas involving robots with a much higher level of technology than what is found right now. I certainly love a lot of B movies that tackle those above topics, but I must confess that the B movie genre that I love the most is the action genre. If you go to the genre index page of my web site, you will see that it's the genre that I have reviewed the most examples of. I know that I am not the only B movie fan who loves action movies. After all, like with the horror genre and the science fiction genre, there are a number of different kinds of movies found in the action movies. My personal favorite is the western genre, and it's kind of frustrating that so few B westerns are being made these days (and fewer of them actually being good movies.) But to compensate, I often watch a different kind of action movie. There are the movies that rip off Die Hard, for example. Then there are war movies, which can get their inspiration from not just more modern day wars. Then there are the martial arts movies that come out of Asia, though sometimes I have found that domestic filmmakers can make a martial arts movie that can stand up to the epic action found in those Asian movies.

But there is one particular kind of B action movie that I would like to talk about here, a kind that has not only proven remarkably popular for decades, but will no doubt be popular in the decades to come. The kind of action movie I am talking about is the tough cop movie. It was a kind of movie that took some time to come around. No doubt because of the Production Code imposed on Hollywood, filmmakers were restricted on really letting loose on its depiction of cops, though occasionally you'd get a hint of what was to come from movies like the Glenn Ford-starring The Big Heat. Even when the Production Code was lifted, it still took a few years for Hollywood to get the idea that tough cops would pull in audiences. Then Dirty Harry was released, and from that point on filmmakers both mainstream and B grade have been cranking out tough cop movies. This begs the question as to why this genre has proven so popular. To answer that question I looked into myself as to why I love these movies as much as other people. The most obvious answer is that tough cop movies more often than not contain a lot of action, something just about everybody loves. But there are other reasons as well. More often than not, the tough cops in these movies are people you admire enough that you wish they were patrolling the streets in your city. They are people determined to rid their city of undesirable elements and bring the guilty one way or another to justice. And the things that these tough cops sometimes do in order to bring justice brings up another reason why I think so many people love these films. These cinematic cops get to, among other severe things, beat up and shoot scumbags who deserve to get such drastic punishment. These are things that we cannot do in real life because the real law enforcers in our society would object. But at least we can get some satisfaction by seeing it happening in fictional movies.

It's not just the United States and Canada that have seized onto the idea of cinematic tough cops. If you look around the world, you will see many other countries have film industries that have tried their hands at making their own kind of tough cop films over the years. One of those countries is Italy. After movies such as Dirty Harry and The French Connection became big hits all around the Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Manworld, the Italians started to forget about spaghetti westerns in order to try their hand at crime and cop movies. In fact, they made so many crime and cop movies - and in their own style - that it created a new subgenre as well as a name for this subgenre - poliziotteschi. In the past, I've reviewed a few examples of this genre, like The Violent Professionals. What attracted me to review another example - Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man - was the talent involved in its creation. It was directed by Ruggero Deodato, who made some controversial movies in his career like Cannibal Holocaust, and was written by famed screenwriter Fernando Di Leo (The Italian Connection, Navajo Joe). The events of the movie center around two fellows by the names of Alfredo (Porel, Don't Torture A Duckling) and Antonio (Lovelock, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie). At the beginning of the movie, they are riding on a motorcycle on the streets of Rome when they see two muggers kill a woman and steal her purse. What follows is an over the top chase as Alfredo and Antonio chase after the two killers, which in the end results in the criminals getting into a crash, killing one of them instantly. The deceased's partner in crime survives the crash, but a few seconds later has his neck broken by Alfredo. The police arrive seconds later, and you might think Alfredo and Antonio get arrested for their reckless behavior and the killing of the two murderers. But it turns out that Alfredo and Antonio are part of a special police squad under the command of their police captain (Celi, Murders In The Rue Morgue) that pretty much gives them free reign to bring down Rome's criminal element in any way that they choose. So even with the disapproval of one unnamed police inspector (Daniele Dublino), Alfredo and Antonio continue their reckless behavior. In between stopping various anonymous criminals and trying to have sex with various women, Alfredo and Antonio start to pursue a big fish, a mobster by the name of Pasquini (Renato Salvatori, The Mercenary) But as the two fascist cops continue their pursuit of Pasquini, they discover that stopping this particular criminal is not going to be easy, not just because the inspector is trying to stop them - he is secretly working for Pasquini.

If you have seen a number of poliziotteschi movies from the 1970s as I have, most likely early on you figured out one particular movie was a great influence on the genre. That movie was, of course, the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie Dirty Harry. Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man was definitely influenced by that film, because we have not one but two tough cops who bend the rules like Dirty Harry in order to get criminal scum off the streets. There are several action sequences, such as with a hostage situation in the middle of the movie as well as a later scene when assassins try to jump the two cops as they are practicing their shooting at a quarry, that could have come straight from a Dirty Harry movie. However, with notorious Italian director Ruggero Deodato at the helm, these particular tough cops do a number of other acts in their pursuit of justice that even Harry Callahan might blanch at. For example, one night Alfredo and Antonio head to an illegal club in the countryside that Pasquini runs. They beat up, knock unconscious, and handcuff and gag the two bouncers outside. The duo then pour gasoline over all the several dozen expensive cars parked outside, pour a ring of gasoline around the unconscious bouncers, and light the gasoline, causing a major blaze. (And ho ho, they were so thorough that they also burn up the car they came in, forcing them to take a bus back into town.) Later in the movie, with Afredo and Antonio still pursuing Pasquini, they find an apartment where Pasquini has been keeping his sister Lina (Sofia Dionisio) in with an older woman guardian. They try getting Lina to talk, but she isn't cooperative, so one of them starts rubbing her sexually. This arouses her so much that she ends up having sex with the guy. When his partner looks in afterwards and finds his exhausted buddy and a still horny Lina, he decides to have sex with Lina as well. (Lina's older woman guardian, by the way, sees all this and basically takes it with just a shrug.)

During scenes like those that I have just told you, I couldn't help but wonder if director Deodato really though that we in the audience were supposed to like these two guys who do such amoral activities like blowing away criminal scum. Maybe he thought that they were acting like Dirty Harry, who indeed blew away criminal scum and bent the rules. But from what I recall from the Dirty Harry movies, Harry more often than not gave criminals a chance to surrender or talk before he got tough. Alfredo and Antonio, on the other hand, come across at times as having seriously diseased minds. When they blow away a gang of bank robbers (before the robbers have actually entered the building and started robbing) on the city streets, they are essentially cold-blooded killers. They are definitely not endearing as cops, and what we see of their private lives doesn't help much either. They are an odd pair - they ride tandem on the same motorbike several times, and share the same bedroom like Bert and Ernie. The words they use on women they try to seduce come across as crude, and the words they use with each other do not show in the least any sign of humanity, or feelings of true friendship or partnership. Dirty Harry had a warmer and easier to relate to personality than these two guys combined. But it's not just with the protagonists that the movie is lacking in compelling characters. The movie's antagonist, Pasquini, is an extremely weak villain. He doesn't have a great amount of screen time, and we learn very little about him. It's never made terribly clear just what he has been doing for so long that has irked Alfredo and Antonio so much that they are doing everything that they can to bring him down. We have to go by the duo's say-so that he is a nasty piece of work, and that is not very convincing.

There is another problem with the villain of Pasquini. In a movie like this, the villain should in the end be dealt with in a way that will be pleasing to the audience. I won't say what happens to the character of Pasquini at the end of the movie, except to say that I felt it was a kind of cop-out, a deus ex machina kind of wrap-up. As you can see from what I've written up to this point, Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man had some serious script problems that should have been worked on extensively before shooting began. These problems hurt the movie significantly. But at the same time I have to admit that there are some pleasures to be found in the movie, enough pleasures that while may not make this a movie to purchase or actively seek out, do make for passable entertainment for a cheap price on a slow day. Although the protagonists may be amoral, their unbelievable behavior does at times provoke some unintended chuckles if you have a sick mind like I do. And while parts of the movie may be depraved, they do in part prevent the movie from getting tedious - I have to admit that there was not one part of the movie I felt was draggy or a chore to watch. I was always curious and alert to what depravity would come next. The biggest attractive element is action. The movie boasts several very well done action sequences, such as the crazy opening motorcycle chase that was reportedly filmed with no permits on the streets of Rome. There is a raw and unrehearsed feeling in this chase and with the other action sequences. In fact, many of the non-action portions of the movie also give off this feeling, putting you off guard and making you pay extra attention because something you might not be expecting will happen. Eventually it does become clear that there isn't a lot of plot here, but you'll have to admit that the time you have invested in this movie up to this point has gone by in a brisk manner, and the remainder of the movie isn't that uncomfortable to sit through. This movie isn't for everybody all of the time, but it does the trick when you are undemanding and craving entertainment while unable to find anything better.

(Posted August 28, 2015)

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See also: One Man Jury, Strange Shadows In An Empty Room, The Violent Professionals