Made in Italy and known by many titles—including The Family, the moniker slapped on the film for a 1973 American re-release that was designed to piggyback on the success of the Godfather movies—this nasty Charles Bronson thriller boasts opulent production values and a pair of genuinely terrific action sequences, conveniently located at the beginning and end of the feature. And if the material wedged in between these impressive vignettes is occasionally dull and murky, at least director Sergio Sollima finds a solid groove whenever he focuses on the grim spectacle of a hit man annihilating targets. The plot is bit convoluted, but it goes something like this. In the tropics, goons pursue tough-guy crook Jeff (Bronson) and his glamorous girlfriend, Vanessa (Jill Ireland). This sparks a whiz-bang car chase that culminates in a bloody shootout. Jeff nearly dies, and insult gets added to injury when Vanessa leaves him for his main assailant, a gangster named Coogan. Compounding the indignities, Jeff is framed for murder and jailed. After his release, Jeff tracks down Coogan and Vanessa, killing Coogan and reclaiming Vanessa’s affections. However, while Jeff was in prison, Vanessa married crime boss Al (Telly Savalas), so a series of double-crosses and schemes ensues while Jeff tries to identify his true enemies.
Following the turgid storyline isn’t worth the effort, but Sollima stages a number of cool scenes. The opening car chase, through tight city streets and winding country roads, gets the blood pumping nicely. A long sequence of Jeff methodically arranging and performing the murder of a racecar driver—during the middle of a race—is similarly tense. And the finale, which involves a glass elevator, is wonderfully stylish. It helps a great deal that legendary composer Ennio Morricone contributes a propulsive score, the main theme of which seems like a precursor of the thrilling music Morricone later created for 1987’s The Untouchables. So, even though Ireland is terrible and Savalas plays his clichéd role with a smattering of humor but not much imagination, there’s a lot of watchable stuff buried in Violent City. (In fact, there’s even a dash of sex, thanks to plentiful nude shots of Ireland’s shapely body double.) And, of course, Bronson is in his natural element, since he looks utterly believable whenever he kills people onscreen.
Violent City: FUNKY