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Shoot First, Die Later(1974)
An honest cop seeks revenge when mobsters try to put him on the payroll.
For more about Shoot First, Die Later and the Shoot First, Die Later Blu-ray release, see Shoot First, Die Later Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on May 26, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Luc Merenda, Richard Conte, Delia Boccardo, Gianni Santuccio, Vittorio Caprioli, Salvo Randone
Director: Fernando Di Leo
» See full cast & crew
Shoot First, Die Later Blu-ray Review
The tortured heart of crime.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, May 26, 2013
My education in the work of director Fernando Di Leo has primarily consisted of watching stoic men go about the daily business of murder, punctuated with the occasional feminine distraction and staring contests between antagonists. The ominously titled "Shoot First, Die Later" contains many of the same elements as before, happily showing off the hardness of character Di Leo built a reputation on. Heck, this movie opens with one of the villains ordering a mass murder of local dim-wits, with the camera enjoying the view of a gunman blasting away at the vulnerable legs of his victims. However, this 1974 feature is perhaps the strongest, most penetrative effort from the maestro I've seen to date, revealing an unexpectedly potent emotional core and richly defined moral struggle, giving the harsh violence and chest-puffing genuine meaning. It's a marvelous picture, spotlighting roughhouse action and a leather-jacket score, while reinforcing Di Leo's iconic status as a crime film craftsman tackling a challenging study of duality and honor.
A police lieutenant with an impeccable record of arrests, Malacarne (Luc Merenda) is a shining example to his fellow officers, also making his father, Sergeant Marshal (Salvo Randone), beam with pride. Unfortunately, underneath the supercop façade is a corrupt man, with Malacarne paid off by gangsters Pascal (Raymond Pellegrin) and Mazzoni (Richard Conte) to allow harmless black market shipments of coffee and cigarettes to pass through the city without notice. However, when Malacarne is forced to cover for a pair of Portuguese men and their trucks full of guns, he has a change of heart, pushing back when the underworld figures demand too much. Living a plush life with lover Sandra (Delia Boccardo), Malacarne begins to lose control of his operation, and when tasked to stifle a parking complaint from nutty rural resident Esposito (Vittorio Caprioli) that draws attention to Pascal and Mazzoni, the figure of virtue breaks down, watching his well-oiled scheme of bribery fall apart, threatening the safety of loved ones.
It's not spoiling anything to mention that "Shoot First, Die Later" ends with the pronouncement "Crime doesn't pay," warning those who've just spent 90 minutes with these troubled characters to not follow in their footsteps. While a large number of gangster pictures attempt the same summation, few actually follow through on the notion quite like Di Leo, who cooks up pure misery for Malacarne as his dream life of accolades, easy women, and financial comfort is torn to shreds by greed and spinelessness. It's a brutal arc of consciousness for the cop, though the gut-punch of reality doesn't reveal itself immediately, finding Di Leo organizing a "French Connection"-style car chase for an opener that pits Malacarne and his partner against careless stooges smashing up Milan, winding through narrow passageways and barreling through traffic, commencing "Shoot First, Die Later" with a propulsive quality that plays like a beloved network cop show entering its anticipated third season, supported by an era-specific wacka-chiwa-wacka funk score by Luis Bacalov that sets the mid-seventies mood perfectly, emerging time and again as the ace up Di Leo's sleeve. Working to launch the production with a burst of activity to establish Malacarne's heroism before it's set ablaze, Di Leo presents a grand display of violence and stunt work that's irresistible, solidifying genre delights with the steely concentration of a veteran creating something of a cinematic Trojan horse.
We learn of Malacarne's corruption early on in "Shoot First, Die Later." Di Leo refuses the temptation of mystery to establish the character's secret dishonor, who gladly takes money from gangsters to secure his comfort after watching his own father struggle with respect and financial security in the law enforcement profession. The downfall is captivating, watching how desperate Malacarne becomes as his routine unravels, urged to reveal his disgrace to Marshal to acquire the incriminating document, scraping frantically to retain what's left of his dignity as his underworld connections demand too much from him. Although hired for his model good looks, Merenda is generous with his simmering rage, respectfully detailing the psychological ruin of Malacarne with trembling silences and a few startling outbursts. The entire ensemble is wonderful in "Shoot First, Die Later," each providing a slice of personality Di Leo enjoys adding to the mix, including ham Caprioli, who takes a juicy supporting role as a cat-loving loon who innocently reports an improperly parked automobile. His rants on bureaucracy and rural living are amusing, adding a dash of broadness to a sobering production.
"Shoot First, Die Later" succeeds tremendously as a survey of soulful decay, almost registering with sophistication the longer it remains tight on Malacarne's quest of survival, observing the man attempt to scrounge up the remainder of his honor to dam the coming tide of underworld revenge. Di Leo keeps matters appropriately ugly, offering shoot-outs and images of gangland reprisal. The director even films the murder of a kitten (not graphically, but close enough to cause discomfort) to reinforce the macabre instinct of the killers. Animal lovers, be careful with this one. Harsh acts of evil aside (women aren't exactly spared either), the darkness has its place here, communicated with a noirish mood of intimidation, making for terrific cinema.
Shoot First, Die Later Blu-ray, Video Quality
Remaining in the realm of bootlegs for decades now, "Shoot First, Die Later" arrives on BD boasting a VC-1 encoded image (1.85:1 aspect ratio) presentation, cleaned up by RaroVideo to do the Di Leo title proud. Considering the age and relative obscurity of the title, the viewing experience is quite pleasant, with sturdy, natural colors that show only a mild amount of fade, retaining most of their original potency, while skintones look realistic, displaying distinct differences in sex and age. Blacks thicken during low-lit interior encounters, solidifying murky actions and costuming, while more brightly illuminated events offer a full range of compelling textures and some fine detail, muted somewhat by the original cinematography and tasteful grain management (though a mild blockiness remains). Print is in good shape, without glaring scratches and dirt, but some shake is present and reel changes register harshly.
Shoot First, Die Later Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 2.0 LPCM track is a little alarming at first, introducing itself quite loudly during the main titles, providing some juice to the mix. Dialogue exchanges are as clean as possible, with the dubbing pronounced and comprehensible, delivering on differences of character and intensity of emotion without aggressive distortion, though highs are a little thin. Scoring is pronounced in a most welcome way, with large sweeps of deep funk carrying the sonic experience with intended vigor, preserving instrumentation. There's a forceful front stage push of violence and fiery reaction that's managed well here, laying a hearty foundation for exciting visual elements.
Shoot First, Die Later Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Shoot First, Die Later Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"Shoot First, Die Later" doesn't take any prisoners, treating Malacarne's disgrace with the crushing reality it deserves. Di Leo's making a point here about the futility of criminal behavior, and his message is articulated with amazing clarity, packaged in an exceptional thriller that's mindful of character, pockmarked with bullets, wet with J&B, and highlights enough snarling Italian men to gift the endeavor the severity it craves.
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Shoot First, Die Later Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Raro Video Teams Up With Kino Lorber - March 13, 2013
Raro Video U.S., the American branch of one of Italy's most influential home video companies, announced today that it has signed an exclusive, multi-year distribution deal with Kino Lorber, a leader in distributing independent art house films in the U.S.
• Shoot First, Die Later Blu-ray - March 8, 2013
Independent distributors Raro Video USA have confirmed that Fernando Di Leo's Il poliziotto è marcio a.k.a Shoot First, Die Later (1974, starring Luc Merenda, Richard Conte, and Delia Boccardo will be released on Blu-ray on May 28th.
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