Silent Action (1975)

When it comes to Italian cop thrillers the genre is awash with cheaper rips on popular American films. Several have a tendency to lean into a nastier exploitation genre. They can be a mixed bag. A little research will show any movie buff the do’s and don’t of Italian cinema. High up the list of must watch cop movies is Silent Action

Directed by Sergio Martino, this film seems polished up for the American market and that makes this seem unique. Certainly, one can find shades of The French Connection and other grittier cop thrillers within. Silent Action makes the effort and builds a property that was good in it’s own right.

The story follows Luc Merenda playing Inspector Solmi who has to investigate a series of mysterious suicides involving ex-government officials. The film takes it’s time, allowing Solmi to ask questions and build an understanding of the cases. With his partner Michele Gammino and District Attorney Mel Ferrer

Typically, a Poliziotteschi flick would have several action sequences and an equal number of dead prostitutes by the time Silent Action decides to up the ante. A welcome change of pace, letting the audience build their excitement before Martino gets your adrenaline running. In this case, rather oddly, the film’s pacing resembles Jaws.

The movie picks up pace when Antonio Casale and Carlo Gaddi slip into a hospital to carry out some dastardly deeds. This sequence was particularly well done as the score carries the action and the tension. Following this is a car chase through some waste ground and old factories. I find myself drawn to these car chases for their realistic damage, bold stunt work and inventive camerawork. Silent Action does well but the sequence doesn’t stand out from the rest. For a great example, check out Shadows in an Empty Room (1976).

A quality car chase halfway through propels the film greatly. Most would have saved this for an exciting finale. Silent Action has several more bullets in it’s magazine.

A second, well known face of Italian cinema plays a smaller and most welcome role, Tomas Milian plays Sperli. Solmi confides in Sperli and they work together to bring down evil doers. It’s fun to see Milian, a familiar face in these films, playing a less flamboyant role than normal. Milian is about as diverse as they come.

An interesting moment occurs in an old prison. Solmi enters in the middle of a riot seeking information from one of the inhabitants. The Governor explains to Solmi that the prison is extremely overcrowded due to the civil unrest in Italy at the time. A lot of films around the time used the political turmoil to explain the lawlessness …

There is a moment of unintentional humour during this prison sequence as we find TV cameras have been capturing the riot. When asked if the police can review the footage to see a particular act of violence amidst the chaos it would appear the camera operator managed an excellent close up of the incident, what are the chances?

By the time the climax comes around the film is firing at a rapid rate. Helicopter chases, machine fights and double crosses come thick and fast. The story becomes less important and the villains need to be brought to justice. Yet, this is an Italian film and therefore the twists are nasty and the outcome doesn’t leave a good taste in the viewer’s mouths.

The film combines a lot of greys and muddy browns in its design. There is very little colour, save for a blood red Alfa Romeo Giulietta SS. Whilst there isn’t anything eye-catching about the cinematography the lack of a flashy camera approach serves the film well helping with the routine police investigation feel early on.

Silent Action works. This is one of a few that does not deploy tactics to try to entice an audience, nor does it attempt to shock or revile. Instead, it’s a solidly entertaining movie, driven by its desire to tell an interesting story. A solid filmmaker takes his time to layer in plenty of intrigue and excitement along the way and whilst there is nothing particularly astounding in the mix, this is just a good, solid, cop thriller. 

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