Shopkeepers have been terrorized by a protection racket in Bologna, and the racketeers have found sneaky ways of planting explosives in the businesses of those who won't pay. Police Inspector Grifi (Marcel Bozzuffi, THE FRENCH CONNECTION) tries to get information from witnesses and criminal informants, but they're all brutally murdered. Grifi has no choice but to form a special squad -- one not bound by the red tape that restricts other cops -- who chase the racketeers with daredevil stunt driving and fight them with precision gunplay.
I don't think Italian director Domenico Paolella knew exactly what he had when he was making 'Stunt Squad' back in 1977. The premise, the story line, and the bad guy are all excellent ingredients for a hardcore action film made today. In fact, I nominate Quentin Tarantino to revamp this film, because it sorely needs it. Judging by the title and box art, you'd think there was tons of action involving an actual stunt squad on motor bikes, causing mass mayhem. That's not exactly the case here.
In fact, 'Stunt Squad' is actually quite slow and it's almost an hour until the supposed 'Stunt Squad' shows up. And even then, it isn't that suspenseful or even thrilling. And once the mild action ends, it's back to the social and political dialogue of 1977 Italy. I'm telling you, someone today could make this 38-year old film into something highly entertaining and fun, worth millions of dollars. Here, some local gangsters are terrorizing the good citizens and businesses of a town in Italy.
These thugs have no morals or ethics, and pretty much do anything to squeeze people out of money, including the murder of innocent people. The thugs are basically led by a man named Valli (Vittorio Mezzogiorno), who is planting bombs in public places, killing tons of people. In fact, some people would say that Valli is one of the most evil villains in Italian cinema. A police inspector by the name of Grifi (Marcel Bozzuffi) takes on the case to take down Valli and his henchmen. But Grifi can't handle all this violence on his own, so he decides to summon a gang of people of his own, known as the 'Stunt Squad'.
While we see a training sequence of this 'Stunt Squad' shooting guns from motorcycles and other various forms of combat training, these people are no stuntmen. In fact, they are more like police officers on motor bikes who chase cars and sometimes shoot their guns. That's about it for the all powerful 'Stunt Squad'. And this all leads up to a climactic moment as Valli and Grifi are both closing in on each other to wipe out each other. This all being said, the film lacks some real thrilling action sequences, that is until the final scene, which is actually very impressive. I just wish there was more substance to what came before it.
There are tons of moments where Paolella could have gone for broke and made a very violent and entertaining action mob movie, but instead, it consists mostly of people talking about what they want to do rather than actually getting the job done. This aspect I think can be fixed with a reboot of the film in the right hands. I think Paolella wanted to tell a violent story here, but he also wanted to talk about the political and social climate in Italy at the time and just how much some of the cities were run by gangsters. Unfortunately for us, this political talk takes up most of the movie. It would have been nice if the dialogue was smart, witty, or at least engaging, but it isn't here. But I will say that at least this movie was on to something big and it does have a few scenes that would make Tarantino giddy. I just wish that 'Stunt Squad' focused more on the action portion rather than the political dialogue.
'Stunt Squad' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is here is quite rough, but that's standard from RaroVideo. This film was made 38 years ago and has some troubling source material elements along with this remastering that plucks out a lot of the vivid detail. There is a layer of grain throughout, but it doesn't seem to be natural.
The picture is quite soft with only closeups revealing some of the finer textures and facial features. And again, that doesn't happen very often. Colors burst out from the screen as they've been strengthened almost to a ridiculous degree. Reds, blues, and greens particularly stand out here. Skin tones are mostly fleshy if not a bit orange and black levels are not always deep and inky and tends to be a problem during the darker lit scenes. There are instances of video noises throughout, aliasing, and debris.
This release comes with an Italian 2.0 LPCM mix as well as an English LPCM mix. My advice is to stick with Italian version, because the dubbing is so off that you'll become annoyed if not laugh out loud. The sound effects here carry the audio track. They're very loud and blunt with big blasts from guns and rocky explosions. Ambient noises are quite loud as well with some high shrills coming in from time to time. Needless to say, this isn't a well balanced or layered audio mix. Dialogue is fairly soft and quiet, and of course dubbed.
So there are a few issues to say the least with that aspect of this audio presentation. Don't expect a crystal clear dialogue track. My advice is to use the English subtitles. The score sounds the fairest here and keeps things going as a solid middle ground for the low dialogue and loud sound effects. But this audio presentation might leave you adjusting your volume from time to time, which is never a good thing.
Introduction by Mike Malloy (HD, 7 Mins.) - Filmmaker Mike Malloy sits on a motorcycle with a gun in his hand and talks about how 'Stunt Squad' was promoted and what the film actually was. The two are different. He also discusses this sub genre of filmmaking.
Booklet - 6 Pages of an essay by Mike Malloy on the film.
'Stunt Squad' is not the film you think it is by looking at the box art or its title. It's something much more. This is actually quite a fun if not very violent film. But it still tries to explore the mafia regime over political and social climates back in the 70s. It never really fully executes that idea, and wanders off on tangents trying to get to the end. That being said, the performances here are all solid. The video and audio are not that great here and the one extra is worth the watch. Rent before purchasing this one.