Sog.: Franco Verucci. Scen.: Ugo Liberatore, Franco Verucci, Roberto Gandus. F.: Silvano Ippoliti. M.: Mario Morra. Scgf.: Lorenzo Baraldi. Mus.: Gianni Ferrio. Int.: Alain Delon (Tony Arzenta), Richard Conte (Nick Gusto), Carla Gravina (Sandra), Marc Porel (Domenico Maggio), Nicoletta Machiavelli (Anna), Guido Alberti (Don Mariano), Lino Troisi (Rocco Cutitta), Silvano Tranquilli (Montani agente Interpol), Corrado Gaipa (padre di Tony Arzenta), Erika Blanc (Lisa). Prod.: Luciano Martino per Mondial Televisione Film, Adel Productions, Lira Films. DCP. D.: 116’. Col.
In 1973, producer Luciano Martino took advantage of the vogue for films on the Mafia following the success of Coppola’s The Godfather to entrust Duccio Tessari with the direction of a film about an exceptional Sicilian hit man who is hunted by Cosa Nostra after deciding to go into retirement. The choice of Alain Delon (who also co-produced) to play the role of Tony Arzenta coupled with the character’s tragic loneliness, which he shares with the archetypical role of Costello in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï (1967), leads the film into the realm of the noirs of the maestro from Rue Jenner. From Melville, the story borrows the juxtaposition between the killer/warrior who is loyal to a code of honour and the poisonous, disloyal cynicism of his clients, the Mafia, whose strategy is from the very beginning based on breaking their word and whose network of traps is international in scope (the film is set in Milan, Copenhagen, Paris and Syracuse while Arzenta finds himself cornered and deceived in each place). In place of Melville’s seriousness and abstraction, Tessari astutely chooses to heighten and foreground the violence, echoing Peckinpah, and offer an edgy, elliptical narration with unusual shots of an autumnal Milan, imbued with cold tones by cinematographer Silvano Ippoliti. Delon is frequently dressed in black, the embodiment of death, and kills like a feline predator, but in fact he is besieged by death in a private war with no way out. The role of the tired, disillusioned but combative killer was already a recurrent character in Delon’s personal mythology (he had just played it in Michael Winner’s Scorpio, 1973, and would reprise the role in the mediocre Le Choc, 1982). Original and well-directed, the film also features a cast that includes great elder statesman of American noir (Richard Conte), French actors of various generations (Roger Hanin, Marc Porel), excellent actors with a theatrical background (Umberto Orsini, Giancarlo Sbragia, Lino Troisi), marvellous character actors (Guido Alberti, Corrado Gaipa) and the expressive Carla Gravina and Nicoletta Machiavelli. Distributed by Titanus, it was very successful with audiences in Italy, but in France (where it was distributed by Gaumont), its reception was much more muted.