Director: Ruggero Deodato
Writer: Fernando Di Leo, Alberto Marras, Vincenzo Salviani
Producer: Alberto Marras, Vincenzo Salviani
Cast: Marc Porel, Ray Lovelock, Adolfo Celi, Franco Citti, Silvia Dionisio , Marino Masé , Renato Salvatori, Sergio Ammirata , Bruno Corazzari, Daniele Dublino , Sofia Dionisio, Tom Felleghy, Margherita Horowitz, Gina Mascetti, Marcello Monti, Claudio Nicastro, Gino Pagnani, Enzo Pulcrano, Alvaro Vitali
Running Time: 100 min.
“Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man” – let’s just take a moment to reflect on how awesome that title is. During its opening minutes, the film seems like it’s actually going to live up its bad-ass moniker as our two tough guy cops, played by Marc Porel and Ray Lovelock, engage in a wordless motorcycle chase against some would-be purse snatchers. This sequence is a breathtaking ride through the rush hour traffic of Rome, which director Ruggero Deodato purportedly didn’t even have legal permission to film. The chase lasts for the better part of 10 minutes and represents the highlight of this sleazy, violent movie.
Ruggero Deodato is a name synonymous with exploitation cinema, thanks in large part to his 80′s shclockfest “Cannibal Holocaust,” which remains one of the most effective “psuedo-documentary” horror films of all time even if I find its onscreen torture of animals to be deplorable. Like a lot of Italian filmmakers, Deodato dabbled in many genres during the 70′s and 80′s, including a fantasy film with the Barbarian Brothers (appropriately titled “Barbarians”). “Live Like a Cop…” is his entry in the “Poliziotteschi” genre, or Italian police dramas from the 70′s. I must confess I’m more familiar with the Italian horror or “giallo” genre but I suspect “Live Like a Cop…” is a decent introduction to Italo-crime films, though these cops don’t exactly follow standard procedure.
Most movies about renegade cops give us one morally ambiguous protagonist to root for – “Dirty Harry” for instance. In “Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man” we get two womanizing, sadistic cops who basically share everything together: an apartment, a motorcycle, a love of violence, and even their women. There’s no homosexual subtext except what’s splashed all over the screen. Both leads look like their jaws have been chiseled from granite. Marc Porel (“Don’t Torture a Duckling”) in particular seems to really embrace his role as an ultra-cynical, ultra-lethal cop. Porel had a dynamic screen presence and unfortunately died way too young at the age of 34.
Our two “heroes,” such as they are, represent a special squad of the Italian police. Their only mission is to stop the bad guys before they commit crimes – by any means necessary. There’s a great scene where they sneak up on a bunch of guys who are about to rob a bank and silently kill them off one by one in broad daylight, unseen amongst the crowds. These cops don’t answer to anyone except their police chief (played by Adolfo Celia AKA the bad guy from “Thunderball”) but even he lets them do as they please since they get results. It’s hard to root for such sadistic main characters but there’s admittedly a lurid thrill to watching them dish out so much hurt, like the scene where they hand-cuff a crook to a pole and use his body as a punching bag.
If there’s a critical flaw to “Live Like a Cop…” it’s that the screenplay lacks structure. The first hour of the film seems edited together in an almost non-linear fashion, as events just happen one after the other – Porel and Lovelock go after random batches of criminals with no over-arching narrative to connect scenes. It’s not until the last thirty minutes that the main plot really kicks in with the cops tracking down the biggest mobster in Italy, a guy whose last name sounds like a pasta dish. There’s a shoot-out in a rock quarry that is remarkably well shot and edited, the kind of kinetic setpiece that would make Quentin Tarantino stand up and take notice. Sadly, the ending is a major letdown with our less than scrupulous leads getting by through sheer dumb luck rather than their own cunning or cruelty. Hell, I’d rather have an ending that actually endorses police brutality than the one that’s in the film; Dedoato seems to throw his hands up and say, “Well, movie’s over! Go home now!”
Even with a screenplay that ignores the standard three-act structure and any concept of “rising action” to its own detriment, and an ending that feels like a pie thrown in the audience’s face, “Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man” is an absorbing experience thanks to the effortless machismo of its two leads and the stunning pain they inflict on every bad guy that crosses their path. Roggero Deodato’s unique camera angles and POV shots, as well as the dangerous stuntwork and brazen film-without-a-permit attitude, are a case study on how to make your low-budget flick visually interesting. Now that RaroVideo U.S. has newly restored and released the film for DVD, there’s no better time for fans of Italian genre films to track “Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man” down.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 7/10