Recently picked up the Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection on Blu-ray. He's not a director I was previously familiar with, but the fact Barbara Bouchet is featured in one of the films and the price tag for four cult Italian crime films in glorious high definition was an absolute steal at a $24 pre-order I couldn't pass it up. Di Leo is credited for being the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's early work. Not being much of a Tarantino fan I wasn't too sure what to expect, but my growing love for Italian films of the 50's, 60's and 70's gave me a little solace in the fact I should find something to enjoy.
Caliber 9 is the first film in what is referred to as the Milieu Trilogy. The film stars Gastone Moschin as Ugo Piazza, a small time criminal whose released from prison and instantly hounded by the local mafia whose convinced that before he was canned he stole $300,000 from them and hid it. Ugo swears he never took the money and he's now only interested in a stand up lifestyle from here on out, but the mafia won't let him off so easily. To keep an eye on him Ugo is forced back into the crime life and made to take orders from the sleazy Rocco Musco (Mario Adorf). This puts Ugo in a uncomfortable position as the police are constantly at his heals trying the obtain information from him regarding the mafia, unaware he's currently working for them, and his old gang soon becomes a main target.
I'd been looking forward to Caliber 9 for sometime now and was slightly disappointed by how mundane and slow paced the story moved at times. The film has it's moments, but those moment's are few and far between, and limited to the surprisingly short amount of screen time given to Barbara Bouchet, and a very good final fifteen minutes which ultimately saves the film from being a total bore. Once again Bouchet proves to be the icing on the cake easily being one of the more noteworthy aspects of the film with her belly dancing scene, proving once again you don't have to have loads of screen time to leave a lasting impression. She plays Nelly Bordon, Ugo's long time squeeze. I figured she have a larger role in the film but aside from her belly dancing introduction and a few sporadic reappearances she really doesn't contribute much more to the film until the very end. None the less seeing her in full 1080p only extenuates her beauty, and made the film worth 1/4 of this set's price tag.
Overall, Caliber 9 wasn't anything special in my book. The film is more story driven than action driven and the fact that Ugo and most of the other main characters are extremely bland and emotionless didn't help matters. Aside from Bouchet's minor involvement, Mario Adorf as Rocco really saves the film as the comedy relief, aside from the cocky police chief (who is incredibly over-the-top), the over confident and smart mouthed Rocco is the only character that helps to keep the story interesting and prevents the film from being a real snooze.