Originally posted on eclectic antics:
Street Law is a 1970′s Italian “Eurocrime” film starring Franco Nero and Barbara Bach. Eurocrime films have often been classified as little more than Italian Death Wish clones, but this is an unfair dismissal. While its true that the success of films like Dirty Harry and Death Wish was at the heart of the mentality behind these low-budget, European crime films, directors like Enzo G. Castellari took their films to a level beyond a cheap vehicle to cash in and created unique films of their own which are different enough in style to make them more than knock-offs. The grim, crime-ridden streets of Death Wish are not merely transplanted to 1970′s Italy, but transformed in the process. Italy was dealing with a lingering wartime legacy, political incompetence (or outright corruption), and crime on an unprecedented scale. In other words, there was genuine discontent and anxiety over the unchecked spread of criminality informing films like Street Law, just as concerns of urban crime in the United States led to films like Death Wish and Dirty Harry. However, the Italian Eurocrime productions in some cases approached the issue in different ways from the Americans they supposedly were shamelessly ripping off. This is apparent in Castellari’s 1974 film, which generally eschews the exploitative violence and sex common to the genre (a part of the film milieu in 1970′s Italy, and to a lesser degree in the United States productions as well) in favor of a rather unusual protagonist in Franco Nero’s Carlo, a snakebit engineer who is singularly unsuited for vengeance vigilantism.
The film is intriguingly shot (not always well, but part of this is due to some odd editing choices) and despite the occassionaly visual misstep, is actually pretty powerful for a film with a limited budget. I found myself arrested by the visuals throughout most of the film and when the editing is done right, it is really done right. The backdrop of 1970′s Italy is perfectly suited to the film’s subject matter–a mixture of Old World sophistication and some serious industrial and post-industrial grit. There are some truly intriguing shots in this film as camera angles, lighting, slow-motion, and tracking are all heavily utilized to emphasize a general mood of chaos and a world spinning out of control.