Convoy Busters (1978)
In Convoy Busters, Maurizio Merli (Mannaja, Violent Naples) pours all of his trademark tough-guy charisma into the role of Inspector Olmi, a cop who's anything but by-the-book, preferring to doll out expeditious, draconian punishment to any scumbag criminal that happens to find themselves caught in Olmi's unwavering gunsight - or at the very least, within range of one of his jaw-shattering man slaps. Olmi's excessive police tactics garner him some unwanted attention, but with corruption and well-connected crooks stanching the flow of justice, Olmi has to break a few rules, and a few noses, in an effort to ensure that punishments are meted out and that justice is served (often in a pool of blood).
Even so, as Olmi works his way up the criminal food chain, he gets too close to a "big fish" at the top, is subsequently demoted, and must resume his crime-busting, body-littering ways working for "Rome's emergency squad." Determined to bring in his man, Olmi is once again stymied by a crooked judge, and makes a terrible judgement of his own when he mistakenly shoots at someone he believes to be a hit-man, but who is really just an old-man, who rides a bicycle, and is therefore not a hit-man (I guess). Olmi requests a reassignment to a police unit outside of Rome, in a small, quiet town near the ocean where there is less crime, and perhaps fewer old men with bicycles. He receives his wish, but his hopes of solitude (and a surprise seaside rendezvous with a schoolteacher) are quickly quashed when Olmi discovers that the port is actually being used to harbor more than just boats!
Director Stelvio Massi's Convoy Busters is a fun little Italian crime movie that uses some familiar archetypes (as opposed to the unfamiliar variety of archetype) and well-worn police-procedural rigmarole to altogether satisfactory and entertaining results. Unlike its protagonist, the film is rather by-the-book in most respects; however, its story structure (also known as plot in some circles) is somewhat atypical. The film is really broken into two stories, one set in Rome for roughly the first half of the film, and the latter half taking place along the Adriatic coast. The shift is initially somewhat jarring as the film and story seem to be heading in a definite direction. And yet, for this same reason it is a rather refreshing alteration, as the direction in which the film and story were headed seemed a bit stale. So, while it might not be an entirely successful story-telling device, ultimately it worked and made Convoy Busters a little more interesting.
Contrasting with the film's plot, visually Convoy Busters is more straightforward and, for this reason, less impressive than NoShame's other recently released Italian crime film, Colt 38 Special Squad. With a few exceptions, the compositions are second-rate - capturing the action, sure, but oft-times the movie features cinematography that is not very dynamic or interesting to look at. Also, the movie is not bursting with a lot of dazzling action, but there is enough going on to keep the movie from becoming stagnate - one standout sequence being a nicely photographed and edited shootout between Olmi, in a helicopter, and some escaped criminals on the ground.
As mentioned, Maurizio Merli's performance showcases his charismatic screen presence and the role of Inspector Olmi requires an abundance of no-nonsense toughness, which Merli certainly exudes. However, his role as Olmi, like his performance, is not merely one-note. Merli does a good job of revealing his character's "lighter" side, specifically in the scenes he shares with Olga Karlatos, as the schoolteacher/love interest, and with his fellow police officers. Overall Olmi is an interesting and likeable protagonist, and Maurizio Merli displays enough variation in his performance to make him more than just merely watchable.
For their release of Convoy Busters, NoShame has once again done an outstanding job bringing this film to DVD, and have packed it with plenty of in-depth extras. The film's transfer looks good, without any damage or noticeable problems, even if the movie's visual merits are not abundant. There are two audio tracks, one in Italian and the other in English, and optional English subtitles are included. The bulk of the extras come in the form of five separate interviews with family (Merli's son), friends (journalist Eolo Capacci and actor Enio Girolami) and colleagues (directors Enzo G. Castellari and Ruggero Deodato), all of which shed light on Maurizio Merli's life, both on and off-screen, and will be of great interest to fans and admirers of Merli and his films. Next, a trailer for an upcoming Italian crime film titled Cop On Fire (which didn't spark my interest) starring Merli's son, Maurizio Matteo Merli, is included, along with the original trailer for Convoy Busters, and a poster and still gallery. Last, and my favorite of all the extras, is a sixteen-page comic book entitled Milano Criminale: The De Falco Solution, written and drawn by two popular Italian comic book artists, Diego Cajelli and Maurizio Rosenzweig, that is inspired by the Italian crime films of the '70s and is also designed in the style of Italian comic books from the '70s. It's a cool addition that rounds out this excellent NoShame release quite nicely.
Originally published at Horrorview.com
Labels: convoy busters, dvd, maurizio merli, noshame, review