A tale of dishonor among thieves!
Italy / 93 minutes / color / Minerva, Eskimo, Figli del Bronx, Rai Dir & Scr: Guido Lombardi Pr: Gaetano di Vaio, Gianluca Curti, Dario Formisano Story: Guido Lombardi, Gaetano di Vaio Cine: Francesca Amitrano Cast: Peppe Lanzetta, Salvatore Striano, Salvatore Ruocco, Carmine Paternoster, Gaetano di Vaio, Antonio Pennarella, Antonio Buonomo, Vittoria Schisano, Alan De Luca, Marco Mario de Notaris, Emanuele Abbate, Esther Elisha, Giancarlo Gallo.
Naples sanitation employee Carmine (Paternoster) is called by the snooty manager (De Luca) to the HQ of the Banca Partenope, where there’s a sewage leak behind the wall of the antechamber to the bank’s vault. Some while later Carmine, a compulsive gambler, is painfully reminded by local Camorra enforcer Antonio (Buonomo) that he owes money to the organization. So Carmine goes to fence Gaetano (di Vaio) and tells him about a cunning plan he’s had . . .
Carmine Paternoster as Carmine.
Gaetano di Vaio as Gaetano.
Gaetano rounds up a gang to rob the vault, gaining access via the city’s sewer system. Aside from himself and Carmine, they are:
- wedding and portrait photographer Sasà (Striano), who sidelines in petty crime and lechery
- boxer Ruocco (Ruocco), barred from the professional sport for having smashed a chair over a (possibly dishonest) referee’s head and now reduced to illegal fighting for money in the backstreets
- a legendary bank robber, recently released from his latest spell inside, nicknamed “The Showman” and “Don Peppe” (Lanzetta)
Salvatore Ruocco as Ruocco.
If you’ve watched this kind of movie before you know that the first thing you do is start betting on who’s going to be the last gang member left standing, and thus the one who either gains all the loot or at least escapes with his life. I put my money on Carmine, but I was wrong.
The heist is pulled off without a hitch—it’s not nearly so elaborate an operation as one might anticipate, and there’s no real suspense involved (except through the habit our chums have of using a cigarette lighter while down in the sewers, which I’d’ve thought a bad plan). While the others go directly back to Sasà’s apartment, which they’re using as an operational base, Carmine and Gaetano, laden with valuables from the vault, for some reason take a different route. They almost run into a bunch of Carmine’s colleagues, and so have to head for an exit other than the one they’d planned.
Salvatore “Sasà” Striano as Sasà
Hauling himself out through the manhole, Carmine uses the pretext that the place is crawling with cops to leave Gaetano (and the loot) trapped in the sewer system. This might seem a bit nasty of him; however, we’ve already learned that The Showman and Gaetano planned for Gaetano to murder Carmine at that precise point, thereby cutting the number of shares in the heist’s proceeds from five to four . . .
Antonio Buonomo as Antonio.
A recurring character in all this is the little boy, Emanuele (Abbate)—he claims to be fourteen and a half but looks more like ten—who periodically delivers pizza or other food to the apartment. Little do the gang members know that Emanuele has been nobbled by the thuggish Antonio and his Camorra colleague Ninnillo (Pennarella), sent by their boss, Jannone (Gallo), to seize the swag and kill the gang members, dissolving the remains in acid—as well as, as Ninnillo admits in a chilling moment, Emanuele. Ninnillo also informs Antonio that Jannone may not realize it but his days as Camorra boss are numbered—and indeed we soon witness a massive shootemup at Jannone’s heavily fortified home . . .
Emanuele Abbate as Emanuele.
We witness it because the two gangsters have taken Sasà and Carmine there so Carmine can be “persuaded” to spill the beans about where he last saw the loot—i.e., where he abandoned Gaetano. But here we encounter one of the movie’s many plotting problems. Ninnillo and Antonio simply leave The Showman and Ruocco alone and unguarded in Sasà’s apartment. Equally improbably, rather than do anything dynamic that might further their financial interests—like plot a means of regaining control of the situation—the two men just lounge around in bathrobes, have a spat over The Showman’s wanting some oral sex, and so forth.
Antonio Pennarella breaks with the cast-naming convention as Ninnillo.
As does Giancarlo Gallo as gang boss Jannone.
There’s a fair amount more plot before one final Mexican standoff. As the smoke clears from that, we finally discover who’s going to be the sole claimant of the ill gotten gains. We also have quite a good reveal of one gang-member’s hidden motivations—the tale hasn’t been exactly what we thought it was—but this wasn’t for me really quite enough to compensate for the movie’s many demerits.
Peppe Lanzetta as The Showman.
Aside from the plotting problems and the lack of any real tension in the heist sequence—there’s a half-hearted attempt to create some with a pattern of laser detectors the crew must traverse, but it gets forgotten—there’s the character of The Showman. This supposed master bank robber contributes virtually nothing to the scheme or its fulfillment, which could have been just as easily—in fact, probably more smoothly—accomplished without him. Moreover, with his obsessive self-centeredness, his rudeness, his aggressive vulgarity, his racism, his bullying and his denigration of anything fine, he becomes so intolerable that I for one was soon hoping Ninnillo would hurry up and sling him into one of those vats of acid. Most of the characters in the movie are of course reprehensible—major exceptions are Emanuele and Ester (Elisha), the model whom Sasà so desperately wants to bed—but none of the others are so obnoxious as to make the skin crawl.
A bewigged Esther Elisha as Ester (sic).
I wish I could say a few nicer things about this movie. Striano and Paternoster deliver pretty good performances, the former in a sort of Jean Reno mode, and I certainly hope that young Emanuele Abbate has a long screen career ahead of him, because he’s really splendid here. Amitrano’s cinematography has moments of joy. But the movie as a whole is unambitious in its plotting and its largely stereotyped characterization, and this lack of aspiration dooms it not to utter badness but to an unappealing mediocrity, which is perhaps worse.