Bronson is, indeed, loose!
Jeff (Charles Bronson) and Vanessa (Jill Ireland) appear to have it all in the opening frames of Sergio Sollima’s hitman revenge tale Violent City. Cruising around on a boat, lounging in the sun, and longingly disrobing one another. But someone is watching, and soon a classically styled old school car chase ensues, leaving Jeff for dead and Vanessa nowhere to be found. It’ll be some ten whole minutes before a single word of dialog is even uttered. And these moments will be reflected back on via flashback, showing us how and why these events set hitman Jeff on a quest for revenge against his beloved Vanessa.
For my money, there’s nothing quite like the era of the Eurocrime film. I adore the entire aesthetic of this genre; this time and place. You’ve got one of my favorite stars and leading men of all time in Charles Bronson, an Ennio Morricone score, and crime maestro himself Sergio Sollima behind the camera. Just with those three talents alone, I’m virtually guaranteed to enjoy myself. At this time Bronson was almost always collaborating with his wife Jill Ireland, and she also brings a ton of talent and elegance to the screen. So while Violent City is a pretty exemplary entry among a long list of films of its ilk to come out of Italy in the late 1960s through the 1980s, it also boasts a list of talent attached that can’t be ignored. And I haven’t even mentioned Telly Savalas!
When Jeff survives the early attempt on his life, this becomes a tale of revenge. It won’t be pretty. Jeff takes it all very personally and gets wrapped up in “the family”, headed up by Savalas’ Al Weber. Weber wants to make Jeff a “made man”, and Jeff is willing to go along with that since Vanessa is now married to Al. The rhythms of Violent City all revolve around new revelations about Vanessa, which allows this to be perhaps the most memorable role of all of Jill Ireland’s collaborations with her husband. Vanessa is undoubtedly Jeff’s achilles heel, but she’s her own person with her own needs, plans for survival, and machinations for power. Jeff is less complex; he’s simply driven by bloodlust. And so their relationship takes many uncomfortable twists and turns. It’s interesting that this volcanic relational dynamic apparently was not a reflection of their real world relationship. I’d always had in the back of my mind that Bronson and Ireland’s off screen relationship was famously contentious and rocky, even though they starred together often. I think I’d mistaken them for Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke, however. From what this film’s commentary track tells us (Bronson’s Loose author Paul Talbot), Bronson and Ireland remained happily married until Bronson’s death. But regardless of their personal lives, Jeff and Vanessa make a pretty fabulous and tragically fated on screen couple here in Violent City, driving the entire story forward on their chemistry and volatility.
This presentation of Violent City, brought to us at the fine folks from Kino Lorber, gives us a cut of the film that’s mostly in English with the leads’ own voices. But it occasionally slips into scenes dubbed in Italian, creating a cut of the film different from what had been released in US theaters as The Family initially. This was a neat way to experience the film in all honesty. I enjoy the realities of production in Italy at that time, when films were being sold internationally and actors were speaking whatever language they felt most comfortable with on set. Here you’re getting a stone cold Charles Bronson crime film, packaged with multiple cuts and a commentary track from a leading Charles Bronson expert. It’s exactly what you’re hoping for when you pick up a disc like Violent City, and it does not disappoint.
(Pulled From Kino Lorber’s website with my thoughts added)
- 2K Restoration of Violent City (In English & Italian with Optional English Subtitles) — This is the version I watched and described in my review. I really enjoyed the experience, actually, having different languages popping up in different scenes. It is really cool that this release offers 3 different cuts of the film, but I only watched this one.
- NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Paul Talbot, the author of the BRONSON’S LOOSE! Books — I was quite taken with this gentleman, who appears to be an absolute encyclopedia of knowledge about Charles Bronson and who also says the word “Eye-talian” at least 87 times in this commentary track. It’s a great listen.
- Shooting VIOLENT CITY: Interview with Co-Writer/Director Sergio Sollima
- Theatrical Trailers for VIOLENT CITY and THE FAMILY
- TV Spot for THE FAMILY
- 4K Restoration of Citta violenta (In Italian with Optional English Subtitles)
- HD Master of The Family — 2K Scan of a 35mm Print (In English with Optional English Subtitles)
- Charles Bronson Theatrical Trailers
And I’m Out.