Violent City – Sergio Sollima – 1970

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Sergio Sollima’s Violent City is likely the very best “bitch done me wrong” tale ever told. The opening credits remind me of the middle sequence of Death Proof where Mike is photographing the girls. Sollima uses almost the same technique, only with each still of Bronson and Ireland the frame goes to a solid color, (Blue, Yellow), and he throws a credit up on it. It’s cracking cool and revs you up for the first scene. The film begins with an astonishing car chase, and at the end Bronson realizes his lady has it out for him as he witnesses her get into a car and leave after he’s been shot.

Well, you can’t really kill Bronson. Not and have a movie too. So Bronson has to “get his lady back”, in perhaps every interpretation of the phrase. The film’s attitude is stark and Bronson isn’t holding back at all. His character is a cold killer, none of the warmth of Paul Kersey to be found. We are given virtually nothing about his life prior other than the fact that he was a paid killer.

What’s strange is how throughout the film Bronson tinkers with the idea that somehow this bitch is worth a damn. This bitch that tried to have him killed. Worth a damn? She plays him all over again just like Telly Savalas said she would. If I have a beef with this film at all it’s that I spend too much of the run time telling Charles Bronson that this gal is no good for him. But you know what? Those two play those tender scenes so believably, (because they are clearly in love), that when the story dictates she betray him it cuts deep.

Telly Savalas looks like he shot maybe three days on this movie, and if I’m not mistaken he has one Tarantinian flashback scene where Jill Ireland’s lawyer introduces them and two scenes in his office. He makes the most of his time, and his mob boss functions mostly as an example of just how big a fish this bitch can fry. She plays Bronson against the man again and he helps her kill him.

Jill Ireland is good, but not really as two faced as this character should be. She plays the role a bit skinkily but she seems too put off by her own evil to really be this woman. I imagine what Michelle Pfiffer or Jessica Lange would have done with the role and get chills. But, this woman is actually Bronson’s wife in real life. This adds a super freaky “Eyes Wide Shut” element to the film. By confronting this fictional confrontation of character involving duplicity and greed, perhaps Ireland and Bronson became closer! In what other movie does a husband get to shoot his real life wife?

The finale of Violent City is outstanding. Ireland and her shitbag lawyer ascend a building on a street-view elevator. Perched across the roof is Bronson with a rifle. He shoots and the lawyer falls with a ping. Ireland, terrified looks to the roofs across the street and understands. She mouths, “Don’t make me suffer.” He doesn’t. He shoots her in the head. As he stands a cop on the roof tells him to freeze. Bronson tells the kid to shoot or be shot. Bronson dies, a victim of his life of violence. So it goes in Violent City.

The music by Ennio Morricone is stellar and Tarantino sampled several tracks from the score for “Django Unchained”. But greater still is the lack of music in the final scene. The final moments play out in complete silence, the only sound the “ping!” of a bullet slicing through a glass elevator.

Is the film sexist? Lord yes. But to be fair, there is no moral compass in Violent City; all of the characters are victims of their own evil acts. The values present here are only the fleeting dreams of killers and con-men who cannot escape the trappings of the world around them. Notions of love and trust are a nice thought but blood rules the streets in Violent City and every one must give their share. 

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