Beast With a Gun (1977)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Poliziotteschi  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - Italy  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Beast With A Gun is an interesting example of how the Italian crime film differs from the American crime film. Like many American crime films, Beast With A Gun focuses on a psychotic criminal matching wits with a police detective. However, this film differs from the American style by pushing the villain to the forefront: the cop is still the story's hero but much more time is devoted to the film's villain, Nanni Vitali. Helmut Berger takes full advantage of this aspect of the film and gives a feral, sometimes operatic performance as Vitalli that commands the viewer's attention. In fact, the film will sometimes linger on Berger for the moment in the wake of one of his evil deeds, prowling around in front of the camera like a beast of prey. Richard Harrison plays the cop hero and does solid work in the role but can't help but be overshadowed. It's Berger's movie, all the way. Writer/director Sergio Grieco obviously envisioned the film this way, as it is structured around the character's shifts of mood and impulsive desires. Though he was obviously was working with a low budget, Grieco gives the film an impressive visual style through widescreen lensing and some nicely atmospheric choices of location (surprisingly, a lot of the film takes place in the countryside). The end result might be a little too grim and brutal for some viewers but Beast With A Gun is a sure bet for students of the Italian crime film.