Monday, December 27, 2010

Mike Malloy's "Elsewhere on the Web" Files #2 -- CROSS SHOT

Nigel Maskell's Italian Film Review ( is a blog that gives one much the same feeling as cracking open an edition of Leonard Maltin's video guide in days of yore -- it's a good place to expeditiously (a) compare your opinion on a particular recent viewing, or (b) get advanced info on what to expect from an upcoming viewing, or (c) browse so as to bulk up your "to watch" pile. The obvious difference being that Nigel's blog is focused entirely on the cool world of Italian genre cinema (the Eurocrime and Giallo genres, primarily) and skips all that other fluff of MGM musicals, Buddy Hackett comedies and whatever else Maltin and his staff wasted their time reviewing. And while still short enough to qualify as capsule reviews, the Italian Film Review write-ups are about three times as long as the old Maltin-book ones. But even so, your humble writer was still too verbose and wordy when he submitted a review (see, Nigel enlists other reviewers too) of the 1976 John Saxon Eurocrime film, CROSS SHOT. So here's the breezy IFR version at the link, followed by a fuller version....

CROSS SHOT write-up on ItalianFilmReview

Where '70s tough-guy actors were concerned, John Saxon couldn't be beat for versatility. During the decade, the actor played equal amounts of leading and supporting parts, as both heroes and villains –- in a bevy of different countries, as a bevy of different ethnicities. But when Saxon made an incredibly prolific burst of 1976-1977 Eurocrime movies, the roles were a lot more lopsided towards villains and supporting parts –- you need only take a look at his nefarious criminal characters in VIOLENT NAPLES, MARK STRIKES AGAIN, SPECIAL COP IN ACTION, THE SWISS CONSPIRACY and THE CYNIC, THE RAT AND THE FIST. Although occasionally he would play a good guy (BLAZING MAGNUMS), only once did he play a heroic lead during his Eurocrime phase, in CROSS SHOT.

The story has Inspector Jacovella (Saxon) chasing a crew of armored-car heisters who killed a cop during the robbery. Jacovella catches up to some of the crooks (and delivers a nice groin kick to one), but another escapes by carjacking a vehicle. Because this new ride contains a briefcase belonging to a local mobster (Lee J. Cobb), the remainder of the film becomes a race between Inspector Jacovella and the mobster to locate the hiding crook.

CROSS SHOT is yet another DIRTY HARRY-inspired Italian cop movie about an angry-at-the-system police detective, but the script doesn't give Saxon much of a twist on this cinematic archetype, except an unusual (even for Eurocrime) penchant for excessive force (at one point, Jacovella pummels a kid for breaking into a cigarette machine). Perhaps to counter this, the film softens Jacovella by giving him a family, and we see him interacting lovingly with his wife and even racing slot cars with his son (played by Saxon's real-life kid -- awwww).

But the biggest twist that CROSS SHOT offers on the Italian angry-cop formula is that here the cop is not butting heads with his police superiors but rather the local newspaperman (Eurocrime fatty Renzo Palmer), who keeps whining that Jacovella's methods are not strictly by the book. Otherwise, all the genre staples are trotted out, from the hostage getting dumped from a moving car (see also CRIME BOSS, VIOLENT ROME, SPECIAL COP IN ACTION, etc) to the blind kingpin character (see also SYNDICATE SADISTS).

Saxon made another film with director Massi that year, playing the villain in MARK STRIKES AGAIN, which is the third in the “Mark the Narc” series. And who was the villain in the first two? CROSS SHOT's Lee J. Cobb.

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