Front Line, The / La prima linea (2009)

5.0 out of 5

The kind of gripping screen treatment one wishes on all contemporary movies dealing with crime, terrorism, people with guns, etc., and this one delivers. Like an Italian Sidney Lumet, director Renato De Maria documents the exploits of one of the most notorious terrorist groups active in 70s/80s era Milan, Naples, and eventually Venice.

Leads Giovanna Mezogiorno and Riccardo Scamarcio are superb, as are the locations and period detail right down to the cars, costumes, and the authentic facial hair on the supporting cast. This a rarity in most modern films that profess a devotion to the 70s yet flash nothing but terrible wigs and shiny disco clothes. Think Blow or Oliver Stone movies.

A flashback narrative structure allows for plenty of character development, while tension is mounted throughout the film as the gang participates in uglier and more reckless acts of violence. Excellent use of actual news footage and audio journalism deepens the story and renders the eventual prison breakout of Mezzogiorno, by her lover Scamarcio, both a knockout climax and a sobering conclusion.

Though controversial upon release due to the many people thinking the movie glorified terrorists, De Maria makes very clear that the protagonists are delusional, irresponsible yet human monsters who sadly believe their increasing violence will somehow redeem them and save their country. At the risk of offering undeniable excitement in its action scenes, there is always a human cost. This totally lacking in a movie like Michele Placido’s Romanzao criminale. Highly recommended.

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