Mister Scarface (Rulers of the City)
Crime, Thriller, Drama | 85 Mins | Released: 1976
Director: Fenando Di Leo
Starring: Jack Palance, Al Cliver, Harry Baer, Gisela Hahn, Enzo Pulcrano, Roberto Reale, Edmund Purdom
Our Rating: 6
Tony (Harry Baer) is a mob loan collector who is unsatisfied with his position in life, and constantly dreams of living it rich in Brazil with his brother. To make some quick cash, Tony joins the forces of organized crime, making his way up the ladder. Together with Napoli, another mob enforcer, Tony hatches a plan to con mob boss Manzari (Palance) out of a fortune, but Manzari isn’t about to let that happen.
Macho fistfights, explosive vendettas and …. Homo-eroticism?!?
Writer/director Fernando Di Leo chronologically made three of the most stupendously amazing “Poliziottesco” (hardcore Italian cop/gangster thrillers) milestones with “Milano Caliber .9″, “La Mala Ordina” and “Il Boss”. I respectively granted those films with rating 10/10, 9/10 and 9/10 … just to indicate how powerful and overwhelming they are. Di Leo honestly was a brilliant but sadly underrated director who really knew how to make hardcore-to-the bone action movies. There are no good or loyal characters in Fernando Di Leo’s depiction of the Italian mafia… There are only vicious and emotionless gangsters that would butcher their own parents in order to climb one small step up the ladder of power & influence. Although nearly not as brilliant as the aforementioned trio, Di Leo’s later films keep featuring the same story elements. “Rulers of the City” – the literally translated title which I vastly prefer over “Mister Scarface” – is another mafia flick full of ultra-sadistic characters, nasty double-crossings, merciless executions, brutal bare-knuckle fistfights and explosive vendettas.
Tony is a smooth and handsome but insignificant guy who works as a debt collector for Luigi Cherico; the number #2 gangster boss of Naples. He wants to make an impression on his boss and ingeniously plunders 10 million Lire from the absolute biggest crime lord in town, the feared and relentless Scarface. Tony unwillingly evokes a mafia war in Naples and finds himself in between the two camps. Luckily he receives help from an elderly Mafiosi and a mysterious blond shooting expert with an old personal vengeance to settle. “Rulers of the City” has a well- written and fast-paced script, and all the fistfight battles and shootout sequences are exhilarating and brute. The film also benefices from neat camera-work and a terrific score provided by Di Leo’s regular composer Luis Bacalov. Still, “Rulers of the City” suffers from two serious defaults that simply cannot be neglected. First of all, everything is done to make it seems like the entire film orbits around Jack Palance and his character Mr. Scarface, but his role honestly isn’t that extended or fundamental. The DVD-cover image that I own illustrates Jack Palance looking bewildered and firing off a machine gun, but never at one point during this movie he takes the effort of even picking up a weapon. Secondly, what’s with the homo-erotic undertones in this film? It isn’t too abnormal that there generally aren’t many female lead roles in Italian gangster movies, but this one exaggerates! The only women in this film are secretaries, prostitutes and walking eye-candy on the sidewalk. Furthermore the hints at homosexuality are downright bizarre and misplaced. The older Mafiosi Vincenzo Napoli is obviously gay, with his pink scarves and feminine gestures the entire time, but even the two lead actors could easily pass for a cute couple. Whenever they’re driving around the city in Tony’s flamboyant buggy, they look like an advertisement campaign for coming out of the closet and the only thing missing is a slogan on the bottom of the screen saying “it’s okay to be gay”.