Cynic, the Rat and the Fist, The / Il cinico, l'infame, il violento (1977)

4.0 out of 5

Maurizio Merli is remembered for his films as Comissario Betti, but less often talked about is Merli’s other reoccurring character Comissario Tanzi. Appearing first in Umberto Lenzi’s Roma a mano armata, the very next year Tanzi was back in Il cinico, l'infame, il violento. Tanzi, retired from the police following a trial that put infamous gangster “The Chinaman”, Tomas Milian, behind bars, still hit the streets busting crooks, and heads, off the books. When “The Chinaman” gets back out on the streets, the ex-cop makes it his sole purpose to track down his once imprisoned foe. “The Chinaman” soon finds himself at odds with the local mob heavy Frank Di Maggio, John Saxon, and using this conflict to his advantage, Tanzi comes up with a plot to take down all the bad guys.

Lenzi was carrying over the Comissario Tanzi character from Roma a mano armata, but the film really feels like the spiritual brethren to Lenzi and Merli’s final entry into the Betti trilogy, Napoli violenta. Even the main musical piece by Franco Micalizzi is a rehash of music from Napoli, most notably a variation on his piece Folk and Violence. Merli brings a great presence to the film despite having played similar roles many, many times, and Milian chews up the scenery effectively as the mis-nicknamed “Chinaman”. It’s a shame that Milian and Merli barely spend any time on the screen together. John Saxon is a welcome diversion, but his character never amounts to much. The real highlight comes by way of Gianfilippo Carcano as Tanzi’s friend The Professor who equips the ex-copper with numerous gadgets including goggles that allow him to avoid laser alarms. With a healthy dose of violence, humor, and a few spy film tricks, Il cinico, l'infame, il violento proves itself to be a contradiction full of derivative elements and innovation.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics