review for The Law on AllMovie

The Law (1959)
by Craig Butler review

Similar in style and ambition to a Robert Altman ensemble film, La Legge (The Law) doesn't ultimately succeed, but it has some undeniably fascinating parts; while it can drag in places, it has elements that are quite memorable. Chief among these elements, it must be said right away, is Gina Lollobrigida. Lollobrigida is one of the most difficult movie stars to analyze; although she could turn in some good performances, what is more important about her is her presence. Yes, that presence largely means her looks, but it's more than that -- Lollobrigida also exuded a carnality that is tangible and that counts for more than the fact that she is indeed beautiful. No icy goddess, Lollobrigida is heat incarnate, and that quality is absolutely essential to Legge. Her character is sensuality personified, and with Lollobrigida in the role, it works. Director Jules Dassin's work is also frequently fascinating; the opening reveals a mastery of the medium that is a joy to watch, and there are dozens of moments (including an incredible whipping sequence) throughout that make one appreciate his skill. Yet Dassin isn't able to make all of these moments coalesce in Legge; the film has glorious moments but on the whole is disjointed and jerky, with a strong tendency toward florid soap operatics that becomes annoying. And while Yves Montand, Melina Mercouri, and Pierre Brasseur are quite good, Marcello Mastroianni, in a very important role, is a disappointment. (Some sources indicate that the actor is dubbed, which may account for the lack of impact.) The screenplay keeps La Legge from soaring and being a good film, but it's worth catching for its female star and its individual moments.