Fernando Di Leo's loosely linked Italian crime trilogy comes 1973's The Boss, the weakest of the three but with enough positive to mildly recommend. Fans of both The Godfather and Scarface should get some enjoyment/entertainment out of it for sure.
Having worked as a trusted enforcer for Don Giuseppe (Claudio Nicastro), a powerful mob boss, stoic Nick Lanzetta (Henry Silva) has been put in a spot with no easy out. With a mob war brewing because of successful hit he pulled off, Lanzetta is caught in the middle. He's loyal to Don Giuseppe, but he also sees more of a chance for advancement if he listens to the big boss in town, Don Corrasco (Richard Conte), Giuseppe's superior. As the bodies continue to pile up, Lanzetta must make a decision. Does he stick with what he knows or try to rise up in the aftermath of the bloody mob war?
Having watched all three of Di Leo's crime trilogy in less than a week, I came away impressed with a couple things. Through all three movies, I was entertained even if there were some sluggish parts (more on that). Mostly though is the downright brutality and cynicism of these worlds. Maybe it's the European audience and market wanting a more reality-based crime story, but everyone....everyone...is a bad guy. It's just shades of bad. When someone gets beaten, it looks, sounds and feels like they're actually getting beaten. Kids, women, pets? Not exempt from some rather graphic deaths. Like I mentioned in The Italian Connection review, Di Leo just don't give a damn. He doesn't care if he offends some. He just wants to entertain a lot of folks and for the most part, accomplishes that.
'Boss' does differ from the previous two movies in the Di Leo trilogy in that it isn't exclusively on the small-scale, low-level hoods. There's a bigger picture here, crime families duking it out for supremacy in the underworld. We hear a lot about 'The Family needs...' and 'The Family must...' when talking about a lot of people making a difficult decision. The Godfather was an obvious influence here -- down to the Conte casting, a role similar to his Barzini -- with 'Boss' hitting theaters just a year after the 1972 American classic. Everyone is betraying everyone, and no one is safe.
A definite bright spot in 1972's The Italian Connection, Silva one-ups himself here. He's the best thing going for 'Boss' by a long shot as Lanzetta, the steely-eyed, ice water in his veins hit man. Silva was a huge presence with a truly intimidating glare when he stared someone down. The hit man is business-like about his job and brutally efficient. To me, it seems like an obvious influence on the Skull, Tony Montana's killer in Scarface. He wears almost exclusively black clothes and rarely shows an ounce of human emotion. He's cold-blooded but highly intelligent and calculating, able to see two or three steps ahead, knowing when trouble will arise. Conte is all right, Gianni Garko is wasted in a supporting part as a police officer on the hunt, Pier Paolo Capponi hams it up as Cocchi, the mob rival, and Marino Mase plays Pignatoro, a former partner of Lanzetta's.
What's disappointing is that for lack of a better description, 'Boss' is boring. If Silva isn't on-screen, the story grinds to a halt. Garko's scenes with his condescending superior (Vittorio Caprioli) serve no purpose and drag on endlessly. Whole scenes are just characters talking back and forth, the camera stationary as if its trying to make us fall asleep. Other times, 'Boss' is just trying too hard, like Giuseppe's daughter (Antonia Santilli) being kidnapped and joining in orgies with her captors just for the movie to have an excuse to have her naked. A nympho hippie? Yeah, right, especially when she jumps into bed for a week with Lanzetta. I liked the movie, but the parts that didn't work truly flopped. Mostly worthwhile for Silva's lead performance.
The Boss <---Opening scene (1973): **/****