High Crime (1973) – Film Review
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Cast: Franco Nero, Fernando Rey, James Whitmore
By Sarah Morgan
Instead, High Crime (definitely without the ’s’ at the end) is a neat and tidy little Eurothriller, an Italian-Spanish co-production starring Franco Nero, the photogenic Parma-born actor who made his name in the spaghetti western Django, played Lancelot in Camelot (where he first met his now-wife, Vanessa Redgrave), and continues to be in demand today.
It was directed by Enzo G Castellari, who once said of the star, “I think that to have an actor like Franco Nero is one of the best things that can happen to a director… if it had been possible, I would have made all my films with him.”
In the end, they made seven together, of which High Crime is arguably the best.
Nero plays Genoese cop Belli, who narrowly escapes death when the car in which he’s been travelling is blown up while transporting a Lebanese drug dealer to a police station for questioning.
Belli tries to get information about the blast from a seemingly reformed old-school gangster, little realising he’s cooking up plans of his own for the mob behind the attack. Then, when his boss is murdered, Belli takes control of the local force, determined to take revenge and end those responsible’s reign of terror.
There’s very little here that’s original or groundbreaking, but somehow that doesn’t stop the film being a thrilling ride. Castellari, who also co-wrote the script, later claimed he’d been inspired by watching Steve McQueen in Bullitt.
There’s certainly an extraordinary car chase sequence towards the start of the film in which Belli tracks the drug dealer. Whoever choreographed it deserves a medal because it’s incredibly intricate in places and is as good as anything we see today – what’s more, it was all done without the aid of CGI effects.
However, I’d suggest the film owes more to The French Connection thanks to its drug-fuelled storyline and the presence of that film’s villain, Fernando Rey, among the cast. The 1971 Oscar-winner also, of course, contains a stunning car chase through Manhattan.
Nero is suitably charismatic as Belli and carries much of the film on his own shoulders. High Crime was a huge success on its initial release, and will appeal to anyone who loves gritty thrillers from the era.
• A Criminal Conversation - Enzo G. Castellari Remembers High Crime
• The Scene of the Crime - An Interview with Roberto Girometti
• High and Dry - The Stuntwork of Massimo Vanni
High Crime is released on Blu-ray by Studiocanal