One could easily imagine the Italian filmmakers of the police crime genre of the 60s and 70s rolling on the floor with laughter at the internet bleating of some audience members crying for “no-politics” in the movies they claim to enjoy. Silent Action could leave them shook.
The film’s overt, cynical take on politics is by no means subtle and some of the dated kitschiness may not play out as well now as it possibly did then. But here it is. Rolling along with crazy extended car chases, kidnap plots, and elaborate helicopter shoot outs. Silent Action isn’t a great film, but it’s an amusingly fun one in its knockabout way.
Silent Action isn’t revolutionary when it comes to its plot. When three government officials die under mysterious circumstances, it’s down to handsome, rule-breaking detective Giorgio Solmi (Luc Merenda) to get to the bottom of the crimes at hand. As Solmi digs deeper into the myriad of underhanded goons and untrustworthy authority figures, the rough tactics cop finds that whoever may be behind the apparent suicides may have some lofty goals for the future of Italy.
It’s a Poliziotteschi film that one could imagine Rick Dalton starring in. Like many of its kind, Silent Action heavy-handedly alludes to the political unrest which resided in Italy during the 60s through to the 80s. Watching the impossibly handsome and stylish Luc Merenda swagger his way through the Italian crime underbelly is at times amusingly discombobulating. Busting down the brothels to locate clues to his crime, yet allowing the madams to continue using schoolgirls to cavort with middle-aged men so he can get a name? If you say so.
Merenda’s Solmi fights crime to ensure the freedoms of Italy. We know this as the film cheerfully drops these conversations in the dialogue. Especially later as the web of intrigue begins to surround the hero cop. To be honest, there’s little difference in this to the likes of Dirty Harry. Silent Action with its retrograde politics is a piece of Copaganda that situates its hero as a hard grafting working-class man who believes that his bending the rule of the bureaucratic pencil pushers is needed to ensure the freedom of the masses from the hands of fascism.
Strutting about in rollnecks and blazers, his cavalier lifestyle resting in deep contrast to his world-weary partner who is quick to remind everyone of his first world problems of being married and having kids. A later incident in the film is of little surprise as the film looks to make points of the death of the nuclear family due to shady dealings. The kind of dealings that only a risk-taking maverick such as Solmi can only solve.
Of course, watching a film like Silent Action with fresh millennial eyes becomes oddly absorbing. Its camera work is at times happily leery and tacky as are some of the off-colour comments such as women killers being built like Russian athletes. Yet elsewhere characters pontificate unironically about fair and equal democracy in quotations which are worthy of noting down. Silent Action is the kind of film which recognises the allure of a particular type of hero cop who may not play out as easily in the modern-day yet holds so many well-constructed action set-pieces, it almost doesn’t matter. Almost.
Silent Action’s combination of cheesy retrograde tone and enjoyable action sequences lands the film very much in the cult enjoyment camp. It certainly won’t be for the masses, that Solmi fights to protect. However, it is happy to show that it’s got guts. The film’s defeatist final moments highlight its desires to take its surface conversations further. It’s the reluctance to wrap everything in an easily digestible package that makes the matter of affairs remarkably refreshing and displays the potency of corruption.
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The Silent Action Blu-ray comes with a wedge of informative and enjoyable supplements, including a richly detailed 32-page booklet, talking about the gentlemanly Mel Ferrer and his time in Italy, as well as production notes on the film itself. Extras also come in the form of a soundtrack CD of the score and a bumper glut of talking-head documentaries on the disc. Featurettes with director Sergio Martino and Luc Merenda are light yet honest. Meanwhile, the running time of two of the features together is longer than the film.
The amount of insight within these sections is perfect for genre-heads who want a head start on the Poliziotteschi genre. The tastiest morsel is a 55-minute documentary on Italy’s “years of lead” era. A period of political strife which is not only laced within Silent Action but many features of the time. Do not expect Alex Gibney levels of Documentary production but do expect the kind of featurette with the kind of depth needed to make such a disc worth the purchase.
Silent Action is out on Limited Edition Blu-ray on 12th April from Fractured Visions.