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  Cynic, the Rat and the Fist, The Terrible Trio
Year: 1977
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Stars: Maurizio Merli, John Saxon, Tomas Milian, Renzo Palmer, Gabriella Lepori, Claudio Undari, Bruno Corazzari, Marco Guglielmi, Gabriella Giorgelli, Guido Alberti, Aldo Massasso, Brigitte Petronio, Gianni Musy, Gianfilippo Carcano, Dante Cleri
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tanzi (Maurizio Merli) has left the police behind, after spending most of his career there, but now he is highly cynical that they can actually do any good in crime-ridden Italy. However, that does not mean he has entirely lost his interest in matters of justice, and there burns a flame within him that leaves him keen to at least strike back against the forces of evil in his nation. So when he receives a card offering condolences on his death, his suspicions are correctly raised that someone in the gangster fraternity has put a contract out on him, and one night shortly after he is proved right when a hitman barges into his apartment and Tanzi is only saved by the faulty lighting, getting a bullet in the shoulder...

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly would seem to be the inspiration for the similarly-titled The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist, as director Umberto Lenzi teamed up three big names for his sort of sequel to Rome Armed to the Teeth, a follow up in that Merli played the same character, but you needn't have seen the first movie to follow this one. He was the Cynic, disillusioned with the law after it failed him, yet finding fresh hope as an undercover agent since the bad guys think he is dead. The Rat you had to assume was Tomas Milian, playing a character called the Chinaman, or China for short, not that you could divine any particular Far Eastern origin for him; he was the gang boss who was orchestrating a lucrative protection racket.

This left the Fist, who was John Saxon, another, bigger crime boss who is trying to control China, although that said Milian could have been playing the Fist and Saxon the Rat, since there were elements in each that would fit that description, though Milian was more used to playing ratlike personas in his other Italian action thrillers of this era. What was important to the audience of the day was seeing these three leading lights of the poliziotteschi joining forces in one movie, which should have been a lot more novel than it was, yet Lenzi served to keep them apart for much of the running time, almost as if he had a little time to film each one over the course of two or three weeks then edited their scenes together to create a hundred-minute picture.

Which was probably what he did - decades later, Robert Rodriguez found this a useful way of upping his star quotient in some of his movies without paying star salaries for the entire length of a shoot. Back here, and the only thing missing was a satisfying car chase, as it more or less contained everything lese requisite for this style, with Merli providing what his fans wanted in that he beat people up at roughly five minute intervals, and got into gun battles too, though he seemed to spend more time than usual running away from those who would wish to execute him. Lenzi even threw in a heist for him to undertake, using that "crawl under the infra-red beams" trick which was exposed as more of a crawl under the pieces of red string trick thanks to some cheap special effects - Catherine Zeta-Jones would not be impressed.

Tanzi is brought in after he has recovered from his bullet wound (symbolically whipping off his bandage and tossing it away) and applied to undercover work to smash the protection ring, which involved a convoluted plot where all you really needed to know was that Merli was the goodie and the people he was attacking were the baddies, with each of the three leads called on to live up to their accustomed images in what you may have been tempted to describe as clich├ęs. Then again, you didn't watch these for any breaking of particular moulds, and Lenzi was by now well aware of what sold at the Italian box office, and around the world too with any luck. As you might anticipate, there was a decided boys club mentality being employed here, with the two significant female roles reduced to Gabriella Lupori getting beaten in practically every scene she was in and another even less important character having acid thrown in her face, and the grand gang war being built up for the finale was reduced to a brief showdown between the three stars that was somewhat anticlimactic. Not the best, nor the worst of this genre. Music by Franco Micalizzi.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Umberto Lenzi  (1931 - 2017)

Prolific, workmanlike Italian director and writer who dabbled in most genres throughout his 40 year career. Started work as a film critic before making his directing debut in 1961 with the sea-faring adventure flick Queen of the Seas. The two decades years saw Lenzi churn out westerns, historical dramas, Bond-esquespy yarns and giallo thrillers among others.

It was his 1972 proto-cannibal film Deep River Savages that led to the best known phase of his career, with notorious gore-epics Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive and zombie shlocker Nightmare City quickly becoming favourites amongst fans of spaghetti splatter. Continued to plug away in the horror genre before retiring in 1996.

 
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