wed 20/06/2018

Salvo | reviews, news & interviews



There are intimations of 'Le Samouraï' in this coolly efficient Italian crime drama

The eyes have it: Saleh Bakri's assassin in the grip of existential crisis

Given the world’s most famous crime organisation hails from Italy, it’s odd that we associate the best crime movies with elsewhere, notably Hollywood (not least its quintessential Mafia films, The Godfather and The Godfather Part II). But Italian directors have been contributing some memorable additions to the genre of late. And following The Consequences of Love and Gomorrah comes the scintillating Salvo.

It opens with a terrific extended sequence. As Salvo (Saleh Bakri) drives his boss (Mario Pupella) through the Palermo streets, he’s edgy, expecting trouble – as though trouble comes routinely every morning. When it does, indeed, come, he’s prepared. Having ruthlessly dispensed with the threat in a short, sharp gunfight, Salvo keeps moving – now on foot – till he reaches the home of the person who ordered the hit.

Inside, he finds the man’s blind sister Rita (Sara Serraiocco, pictured left), and stalks her silently through the house. The petrified young woman is aware of his presence, waits for him to pounce. And then her brother calls at the door.

Aside from some bravura choreography, from the street pursuit to the highly original, superbly tense cat-and-mouse in the house, what’s striking about the sequence is how long it takes before we get to view Salvo’s face, other than his eyes; like the girl, we’re blind to his identity. Yet we’re left in no doubt as to this young killer’s focussed, relentless personality. This strength of purpose will slowly be called into question by the presence of the girl, whose sight seems to have been returned by her traumatic experience.

This film’s clearest antecedent, funnily enough, is neither Italian nor American, but French, namely Melville’s Le Samouraï. Like Alain Delon’s ice-cold assassin Jef Costello, Salvo is a loner, for whom solitude is part and parcel of his professionalism. Both live in tiny, spartan accommodation, Salvo renting a room in a couple’s apartment, the pair waiting on him without thanks or acknowledgment. While Costello had a caged bird in his room, Salvo has a dog. Each man deals with his wounds with impressive nonchalance, each has the sort of good looks that freeze the blood.

And like Jef, Salvo will eventually be at odds with his employer. Pupella (pictured right) has something of the mad Klaus Kinski about him, his character slowly cracking up under the strain of the world he’s created for himself.  “I even want to check the breath of whoever’s around me,” he confesses to his taciturn enforcer. They live like rats, he observes, but “this is our life, the only one we’ve got.” The boss voices the existential crisis that the silent Salvo will act out, as he feels compelled to protect a witness he once would have killed.

This is a confident, fascinating, punchy debut from Sicilian writer-directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza. That opening sequence alone would suffice as a calling card, but the whole film is full of refreshing touches, from the comedy of Salvo’s exchanges with his reluctant landlords, to the enjoyably efficient evasion of a police search in a traffic jam, and the Wild West feel of his stand-off with his former accomplices.

All the while, we are reminded – in a way that this emotionally stunted anti-hero can’t fathom – of the fear and confusion of a woman whose returning sight could not be more joyless.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Salvo

Like Alain Delon’s ice-cold assassin Jef Costello, Salvo is a loner, for whom solitude is part and parcel of his professionalism


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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