The Film (3.5/5)
Umberto Lenzi is a master of genre cinema. During his long career Lenzi worked in a variety of genres making fun and entertaining films in arguably every single one of them. Lenzi is known to most viewers for his work in westerns, horror, giallo, and war films, but the genre with which he made his biggest impact is very likely the Poliziotteschi or police film. This Euro-crime genre saw Lenzi make films such as the classics Almost Human and Rome Armed to the Teeth (when Grindhouse Releasing? WHEN?). However, his career in the genre began with the film contained with Raro Video's latest Blu-ray release, Gang War in Milan.
Gang War in Milan finds Antonio Sabato (Lenzi's giallo Seven Blood Stained Orchids) playing Salvatore Cangemi known to his associates as Toto. Toto is essentially the Kingpin of all the major prostitution in Milan, and as the film begins he finds one of his prostitutes face down dead in the pool he was about to take a swim in. She didn't drown in that pool, however, she was killed elsewhere and placed there for him to find as a clue that there is a new face in town. That new face is French drug kingpin Roger Daverty aka The Captain. The Captain has just come to Milan, and wants to immediately take control of the drug trade in the city. One part of his plan to achieve this is to pair up with Toto, and have Toto's hookers sling his heroin to their clients. Of course, The Captain offers a deal that Toto considers a slap to the face, and this turns the two immediately against each other, and brings gang war (shock!) to Milan.
Lenzi makes his entry into Eurocrime cinema with a bang (sorry.). The film is a fast paced, fun, and violent ride from the director, but if you are already a fan of Lenzi's other work than that should already be expected. When watching a film by Lenzi I don't expect high art, I expect something that is fast, trashy, and fun, and that's what is presented in Gang War in Milan in spades. The direction from Lenzi obviously offers a nice, brisk pacing to the proceedings, and keeps everything flowing throughout. While the screenplay offers some politically outdated moments that might offend some more soft-skinned folks one has to consider the culture and the social climate of the time.
The set design, especially for the use of colors deserves special notice. Toto's apartment for an extreme example is cast with very stylish furniture and decorated with dark blues that really set it apart. The performance from Antonio Sabato is also one of, if not my very favorite of his that I've seen thus far. That being said don't go in expecting him to be a hero you'll be rooting for, all the characters in Gang War in Milan are a sleazy bunch, and while I wouldn't necessarily call them bad guys, they certainly fall into the anti-hero department. I will say one of the amusing ways the screenplay tries to keep Toto from descending into the realm of pure evil is by keeping him associated with his Mother's care at a nursing home facility. I found this element cute at first, but a little distracting especially at the end when it become part of his escape.
Overall, if you dig Italian crime and action cinema you will certainly find a lot to like into with Gang War in Milan.
Raro Video have presented Gang War in Milan with a quite nice 2:35:1 VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer. The transfer is quite nice actually in comparison to some of Raro Video's recent work, which has been heavily manipulated digitally. There is some slight DNR present, but not overtly so. Detail and textures are nice, black levels are solid, but not great, and there is some traces of grain present.
The audio is LPCM mono in English and Italian, although with Italian genre pictures it really doesn't matter as sound isn't recorded on set, I did go with the Italian track. The track sounded nice with dialogue coming through clean, clear, and audible as did the music and background effects.
Not a great extras package, but we do get something. The film comes with an introduction by Mike Mallow that runs 5 minutes in length, and inside the package comes physical liner notes also from Malloy.
Gang War in Milan is a fun, violent crime epic from Umberto Lenzi. Raro did a reasonable job cleaning this one up, and putting it to Blu-ray. Raro's Blu-ray of Gang War in Milan comes RECOMMENDED.