Saturday, October 8, 2011

Street People (1976)

A borderline incoherent crime thriller that’s essentially an Italian film with a pair of English-language actors jammed into the leading roles, Street People is generic action-cinema meat: a mindless string of buddy-movie banter, car chases, double crosses, and shoot-outs. Roger Moore plays an Italian educated in England (or an Englishman raised in Italy, whatever) who grew up to become the lawyer for an Italian gangster based in San Francisco; the mobster, in turn, has some sort of decades-old psychodrama going with his brother, a priest who may or may not be involved with the family business. (Given this picture’s sloppy storytelling and the fact that most of the dialogue was dubbed into English after filming, it’s hard to keep the facts straight.) Stacy Keach shows up when Moore’s character needs help smoking out bad guys who ripped off a shipment of Mafia dope, and it’s never particularly clear how the two know each other, or even what form their relationship takes: Are they friends, former colleagues, relatives? It doesn’t help that the leading actors, apparently receiving no useful guidance from the picture’s two credited directors and six credited writers, give performances that belong in two different movies. Keach goes for light escapism, which works, and Moore goes for heavy drama, which doesn’t. The overwrought filming style doesn’t do Moore any favors; in one of his big scenes, literally every single shot is a melodramatic zoom into a closeup. Amid the nonsense are a few fleeting moments of amusement, like a sequence in which Keach “test drives” a Mafia car by banging it into every vehicle in sight, while a terrified mobster rides shotgun. And, for viewers who trudge all the way to the ending, the climax has that special overcaffeinated intensity usually found in spaghetti Westerns, complete with elaborately intercut bloodletting. Street People isn’t unwatchable, but even calling it a complete mess is being generous.

Street People: LAME

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