Rome: Armed to the Teeth (1976)

Country: Italy
AKA: Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Brutal Justice, Tough Ones
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Maurizio Merli, Arthur Kennedy, Giampiero Albertini, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Tomas Milian, Ivan Rassimov, Luciano Pigozzi, Stefano Patrizi
Music: Franco Micalizzi

Here’s a quick look at another cop thriller from Italy. This poliziotteschi (as Italian cop thrillers are called), features Maurizio Merli as Dectective Leonardo Tanzi, a tough cop in the Dirty Harry tradition. As an actor, Merli was often derided as being a Franco Nero wannabe, but this probably has more to do with his blonde hair and blue eyed looks than the quality of his acting. In fact Merli carved out quite a niche for himself playing tough cops in a series of films, most notably, Violent Rome (1975), Violent Naples (1976), and the sequel this film, The Cynic, The Rat And The Fist (1977) – the last two, also directed by Umberto Lenzi.

Rome Armed To The Teeth doesn’t have much of a plot. It is very episodic and there is very little investigating or police procedure involved. There are a lot of ‘right place at the right time’ sequences. Crime just seems to happen around Tanzi.

As I said, this film is Dirty Harry inspired, that is, Tanzi keeps arresting the crooks, and the next day they are back out on the street. Also, Tanzi’s unorthodox (and sometimes violent) methods continually result in him being dragged over hot coals by his superior, Ruini (Arthur Kennedy).

And interesting subplot, which isn’t explored as fully as it could be, is the relationship between Tanzi and his girlfriend, Anna (Maria Rosaria Omaggio). Anna is a criminal psychologist, and on her recommendation many criminals are released early or set free. Of course, this is at odds with Tanzi’s opinion, that all criminals should be locked up – no matter what the circumstances. Her attitude (understanding, and rehabilitation), doesn’t even waver, even after a gang of hoodlums kidnap her, and beat and humiliate her in an attempt to get to Tanzi. She refuses to tell him the details of the abduction, in the fear that he’ll fly off the handle and seek retribution.

The villain of the piece is a hunchback named Maretto, played by Tomas Milian. At first glance, because of his deformity, he seems like a weedy lower tier punk, but he actually is psychotic (but it is hard to take seriously someone who wears red trousers!) Maretto’s most violent act is when, armed with a sub-machine gun, he hijacks an ambulance. In transit, he kills the doctor and patient on board, and forces the driver to race around the streets of Rome; all the while an armada of police cars follow in hot pursuit. A traffic light stops the chase, and the ambulance crashes in a crowed market. Maretto jumps out of the ambulance and fires his sub-machine gun into the crowd to create a diversion.

There’s some very good set-pieces in this film. One of the best is after a gang of upper-class teenagers, led by the baby-faced Stefano Patrizi, rape a girl and beat up her boyfriend. Tanzi catches up with the ‘perps’ at a billiard parlour, and after smashing Patrizi’s face right through the glass top of a pinball machine, he beats the crap out of the other members of the gang. It is very interesting to compare this scene to a similar scene in a billiard parlour, in Chuck Norris’ Code Of Silence (1985).

Rome Armed To The Teeth is a good fast paced cop thriller. If it has a small weakness, it is the resolution. After all the good action set pieces (the two mentioned above, a rooftop chase, and a good hostage situation in a bank), that the final confrontation doesn’t really stack up. But that aside, this film has good, tough dialogue, good action scenes, and terrific pumping score, by Franco Micalizzi. If you like cop films, this is worth a look, but beware – there are butchered versions of this film out there that only run 79 minutes, and apparently are missing the opening scenes, that set up much of Tanzi’s frustration with the system.

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