A clandestine war is being fought on the streets of Genoa as new players attempt to enter the established drug trafficking network once run by elderly Cafiero, now apparently retired and spending his time in his flower gardens. Vice-Commissioner Belli attempts to maintain order, but having arrested a contact newly arrived from Lebanon he is now targeted with the suspect and several officers killed by a car bomb outside police headquarters.
Belli’s superior, Commissioner Aldo Scavino, having taken years to compile a dossier of the major players in the city, without evidence which can guarantee a prosecution all he has are unproven suspicions, and simply pruning the branches is insufficient if the roots survive; will a power struggle between the old and the new aid Belli and Scavino in their quest or just make the task more difficult and bloody?
Director Enzo G Castellari had moved past the Spaghetti Western phase of Kill Them All and Come Back Alone which established his reputation when he teamed with Django’s Franco Nero for the 1973 poliziottesco thriller High Crime (La polizia incrimina la legge assolve, literally “The police prosecute, the law acquits”), depicting the frustration of investigating the ever-shifting underworld of endemic crime, always in danger and never sure if they are following the right leads.
Half the businessmen and industrialists of the city apparently either connected or involved, High Crime depicts a labour mythological in its scope, Sysyphus pushing the rock uphill, and what little progress is made comes with payback, sacrifices paid dearly by Scavino, Belli and their families, and fighting organised crime is like fighting the Hydra which springs a new head every time it is decapitated.
The reticence of his superior to share information leading Belli to even suspect him, the relationships between Belli and the two older men on either side of the law which are the most interesting in the film, on one side Commissioner Scavino (The Shawshank Redemption’s James Whitmore) and on the other the supposedly reformed gangster Cafiero (The French Connection‘s Fernando Rey), his loyalties as ambiguous as the conclusion; by default his trust should be in Scavino, yet it is the flowers which Cafiero tends that blossom.
Presented on Blu-ray from a 4K restoration as part of StudioCanal’s Cult Classics range, the new edition of High Crime also contains an interview with director and co-writer Castellari, another with camera operator Roberto Girometti and a third with frequent Castellari associate and stunt performer Massimo Vanni.
High Crime will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital by StudioCanal on Monday 6th June