Angel of Evil: An Italian Gangster With "More Balls Than Brains"

After Carlos and Mesrine, it seems European directors can't get enough of those those bloody '70s, that bell-bottomed era of radical/gangster chic. Italian director Michele Placido similarly selects as his protagonist front-page criminal Renato Vallanzaca (Kim Rossi Stuart), a small-time Milan hoodlum who graduated from petty theft to bank jobs and kidnappings. (Some of the latter were apparently more vacations than ordeals; Renato thoughtfully supplies one hostage with hookers and coke.) The film opens with Renato in jail, then loops back to detail his rise and fall—none of it particularly remarkable, unless you share Placido's fetish for vintage sideburns, sunglasses, and BMW sedans. Renato emerges as a vain, virile, foolhardy braggart ("I could easily steal the chair from under the Pope's ass"). After the capers, betrayals, and heists-gone-wrong, Angel becomes—or ought to become—more interesting during Renato's long years of imprisonment. Yet, unlike the hero of A Prophet, he seeks no jailhouse education, never refines his methods. Instead he learns the art of the press conference, boasting to a scrum of journalists, "I'm not a victim of society! I was born to steal." No master criminal, he ultimately finds success as a front-page folk hero, better with a radio mike than submachine gun. Leave it to a rival to describe Renato best: "More balls than brains."

 
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