From its funky bass line to its bell-bottom slacks, Shoot First, Die Later is a 1974 time capsule, but one best left buried. Director Fernando Di Leo’s sorry followup to his “Milieu Trilogy” of fast-action cop films, which included his career-topping Caliber 9, is hackneyed by comparison. A novel twist on the bad-apple-on-the-force theme—Lieutenant Malacarne exceeds his humble police officer father in both rank and corruption—quickly slips into a routine revenge flick after Malacarne’s father and girlfriend are wasted by his narco-trafficking associates. Add to the mélange a vintage 70s evil glam-queen and smiling Richard Conte as the world’s most boring mob boss.
The problem is not the serviceable story, adapted from American crime novelist William P. McGivern’s Rogue Cop. If anything, a few chuckles may be derived from the dated politics, such as Malacarne’s order to arrest two hundred suspects, “above all, hippies!” But the blocking and camera work that previously defined Di Leo’s best work seem downright amateurish here. Stunt fans may find redemption in two thrilling car chases that bookend the movie. These are full-throttle, side-bumping, wall-scraping pursuits through alleys and tunnels that skid into showers of sparks. Otherwise, Shoot First, Die Later croaks at the first bullet.