• The Tough Ones (Grindhouse Releasing) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Grindhouse Releasing
    Released on: July 9th, 2019.
    Director: Umberto Lenzi
    Cast: Maurizio Merli, Tomas Milian, Maria Rosario Omaggion, Ivan Rassimov, Arthur Kennedy
    Year: 1976
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    The Tough Ones – Movie Review:

    Directed by the late Umberto Lenzi and known, depending on when and where you saw it, as Roma a mano armata, Assault With A Deadly Weapon, Brutal Justice, Rome Armed To The Teeth and The Tough Ones, this 1976 poliziotteschi picture introduces us to Inspector Leonardo Tanzi (Maurizio Merli). He’s the toughest cop around and he will do whatever it takes to bring criminals to justice. He’s also fed up with the government of his country and those running the show in Rome being soft on crime. If Tanzi needs to bend the law to enforce the law, he’s willing to do that, and if he needs to kick a perp in the balls a few times, well, he’ll do that too. His pal Commissioner Caputo (Giampiero Albertini) is with him on these methods of policing, although the Chief (Arthur Kennedy) frowns upon Tanzi’s behavior.

    These days, he’s spending most of his time trying to get to the bottom of a crime ring led by a psychotic hunchback named Vincenzo Moretto (Tomas Milian) who works at a slaughter house, but he’s more than willing to rough up any punks he sees along the way. From purse snatchers to those that would take advantage of a stranded female motorist, Tanzi puts faces through glass, punches everyone he can and shoots down plenty of bad guys with little regard for public safety – which eventually lands him a desk job.

    When he gets too close, Moretto has his men terrorize Tanzi’s favorite lady, Anna (the beautiful Maria Rosaria Omaggio ), which leads to more revenge from Tanzi and not only an escalation of his war on crime but also some understandable stress in his personal life. Throw in a sleazy playboy named Tony Parenzo (Ivan Rassimov), who intentionally overdoses his young, female plaything Marta (Gabriella Lepori), and a few other scoundrels and it’s clear that there’s only one solution to this problem – violence!

    The Tough Ones is short on plot to be sure, and technically it might be little more than a series of violent set pieces strung together by a threadbare plot, but it doesn’t matter. Lenzi knows what his audience wants, and as such, he offers up action, violence, more action, more violence, a bit of sleaze and nudity, more action, some more violence and then finally, some violent action. It’s all shot with a reasonable amount of style by cinematographer Federico Zanni and set to an absolutely ass kicking score from composer Franco Micalizzi (the main theme for this picture is an absolute classic of 70’s Italian cinema soundtracks!), this one moves at a lightning fast pace. Making up for what it lacks in depth with some impressive brawls, bloody shoot outs, solid stunt work and killer car chases, The Tough Ones gleefully throws logic out the window in favor of crowd-pleasing mayhem.

    Front and center in all of this is Merli. He’s a handsome guy, sure, but it’s his slapping, punching and nut-kicking skills that really set him apart. More than just a guy who bears an uncanny resemblance to Franco Nero, he crashes through the film like a bull through a china shop, leaving subtlety in the dust and delivering a turn best described as pure, unfiltered machismo. He would reprise the role again in Lenzi’s The Cynic, The Rat And The Fist. Supporting work is solid here too. Milian steals more than a few scenes as the crazy hunchback, whether he’s whining and pleading to get more money from a fence, encouraging people to rub his hump for luck, literally eating a bullet or blasting away with a machine gun his work here is beautifully demented and one for the books. In a career littered with crazy roles, this is up there with his craziest. He would play a crazy hunchback for Lenzi again in 1978 in the film Brothers Till We Die.

    Beautiful Gabriella Lepori is well cast as Merli’s consciousness objector lady friend. She adds an element of class to the production, but is maybe a bit underused. Giampiero Albertini does a fine job as Merli’s enabler while an aged Arthur Kennedy is quite good as the chief of police, even if his character is one big, old cliché. Ivan Rassimov, always perfect as the heavy, is perfect as the heavy. He isn’t stretching as an actor here but he does what he does very well.

    All in all, a ridiculously satisfying ninety-three-minutes of high octane, politically incorrect, bad guy smashing insanity from Lenzi and an insanely entertaining time at the movies.

    The Tough Ones – Blu-ray Review:

    Grindhouse Releasing brings The Tough Ones to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.40.1 and taken from a new 4k remaster and it looks excellent.

    Audio options are provided in English and Italian language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks, with optional subtitles available translating the Italian language option. The Italian track sounds excellent, save for three very short spots where the soundtrack ‘warbles’ ever so briefly. When this happens it only happens for about a second, and a lot of people probably won’t notice it, but it does happen. Otherwise? The track sounds fantastic. The score has a lot more punch and power to it than it has had before, the mix is perfect, the dialogue clean and clear and the track perfectly balanced. The English track sounds thinner and less robust by comparison but it’s still not bad, and for some of us, the English track will provide a bit of a nostalgia rush, so it’s got that going for it as well.

    Extras are spread across the two discs as follows:

    DISC ONE:

    Extras on the first disc kick off with an excellent audio commentary by Mike Malloy, director of Eurocrime! The Italian Cop And Gangster Films That Ruled The 70's. If you’re familiar with Malloy’s work then you’ll know that he ‘gets’ tough guy movies in a way that allows him to talk about them with just the right mix of scholarly insight and the appreciation that only a genuine fan can bring. He does a great job here, detailing the characters, the situations, the locations, the score, where some of Lenzi’s ideas came from and more. He does a great job exploring some of the themes that the movie deals with, places the picture in context alongside a host of other ‘violent cop’ movies that came out of Italy in the wake of Dirty Harry and The French Connection, and really just does a fantastic deep dive into the film’s history and what makes it work as well as it does.

    Previously seen on the 88 Films UK Blu-ray release of Eyeball but carried over to this release is All Eyes On Lenzi: The Life And Times Of The Italian Exploitation Titan. This is an eighty-four-minute documentary made up of interviews with Umberto Lenzi himself along with film critics John Martin, Manlio Gomarasca and Rachael Nisbet, academics Calum Waddell and Mikel Koven, actors Danilo Mattei and Giovanni Lombardo Radice and filmmaker Scooter McCrae. Directed by Waddell, the piece does a very good job of tracing Lenzi’s career as he hopped from whichever genre was in vogue to the next. As such, we learn about his work on Spaghetti Westerns, Gialli, Italian cop movies and of course the notorious cannibal films he made before then segueing into pictures like Nightmare City, Ironmaster and later period work like Ghosthouse and Nightmare Beach. Along the way we’re treated to some great clips from the films that are discussed as well as some interesting anecdotes from Lenzi, Radice and Mattei (particularly when it comes to how everyone got along during the making of Cannibal Ferox, which Radice does not hide his hatred for). The critics show up and offer some insight into what works and, just as often, what doesn’t in many of his films while the academics offer some welcome cultural context for many of the works explored. McCrae really only chimes in when Nightmare City comes up, but that’s okay because his thoughts on the movie are spot on. All in all, this is quite well done and a very nice tribute to the late director who, thankfully, gets a lot of screen time in this piece and seems to be enjoying looking back on his career.

    The first disc also contains a sit-down chat with Lenzi and composer Franco Micalizzi entitled Music For Mayhem that was recorded in 2010. Here, over the span of thirty-three-minutes, the pair discuss… a lot, really. They cover how they came to get to know one another and work together and then go on to share some anecdotes about some of the actors they were involved with, including Milian, before discussing the importance that the music played in their various collaborations. It’s an interesting talk.

    Carried over from the Italian DVD release that came out some time ago via No Shame Films is Citta Frontale - Roma On Location, an interesting comparison showcasing how the locations used in the picture appeared in 1976 versus the modern day. It’s a twenty-two-minute examination that shows just how much Rome has changed over the years and, in some cases, how much it hasn’t.

    Moving right along, we get a fun vintage VHS introduction that was done for the Sybil Danning’s Adventure Video line that runs a minute-and-a-half. Here, actress Sybil Danning does some stilted reading decked out in a black mini-shirt and tight-fitting pants in an attempt to entice us into watching the picture. It’s a fun piece sure to please those who remember the Adventure Video line fondly.

    From there, dig into the international theatrical trailer for the film as well as a cool VHS promo trailer. Grindhouse has also included bonus preview trailers for The Beyond, Pieces, Pigs, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Massacre Mafia Style, Gone With The Pope, Scum Of The Earth, An American Hippie In Israel, Corruption, The Swimmer, The Big Gundown, I Drink Your Blood, The Ice House, Death Game and The Captive Female.

    The first disc also includes a fun Easter Egg in the form of the alternate opening for the VHS release done under the alternate title of Assault With A Deadly Weapon.

    DISC TWO:

    The bulk of the second disc is comprised of interview featurettes, starting with Umberto, which is, as you could have probably guessed form the title, an interview with the late Umberto Lenzi. In this lengthy fifty-six-minute interview, Lenzi does a deep dive into his education and training, his early days in the film industry, some of his first directorial efforts, the more notorious pictures that he would make in his heyday and quite a bit more. In typical Lenzi fashion, he makes some questionable claims here and states them as fact, but then, that’s half the charm of a piece like this. This piece turns out to be as entertaining as it is illuminating.

    Up next is The Rebel Within, an excellent interview with actor Tomas Milian, who passed away in 2017. This thing runs just short of ninety-minutes in length, it’s a feature-length documentary, really, and in it Milian covers a whole lot of ground. It’s not quite linear in terms of its time line but he does talk about his childhood and then how he got into acting before then talking about pictures he made, big and small, as well as some of the people he starred alongside the some of the directors that he was able to work with over the years. Always a character, this is an excellent supplement and a fascinating watch.

    The Merli Connection is a tribute/appreciation piece featuring interviews with son Maurizio, directors Enzo G. Castellari and Ruggero Deodato as well as Marco Manetti, Antonio Manetti and Antonio Tentori. Carried over from the No Shame DVD, this forty-five-minute piece is essentially a tribute from those who worked with and new the actor who passed away far too soon. There are a LOT of clips from his different films featured in here as well as some interesting anecdotes and remembrances from those who were lucky enough to collaborate with the man.

    After that, check out Beauty And The Beasts which interviews actress Maria Rosaria Omaggio for a half an hour about how she got her start in the business, landing the part in The Tough Ones, working with her co-stars and, more interestingly, her thoughts on Lenzi as a director and what he was like to work with.

    In Corrado: Armed To The Teeth we spend some time with actor Corrado Solari, who had a supporting role in the film as bad guy ‘Ablino.’ Here, over forty-five-minutes, the prolific Italian character actor really opens up in a big way about not just his work on this picture and his relationship with Lenzi but some of the more noteworthy co-stars he acted alongside as well. He’s a great storyteller and really go to work on some interesting projects throughout the seventies (and into the 2000’s). great stuff, and a nice way to salute a lesser known part of Italian genre cinema.

    Actress Maria Rosaria Riuzzi, who played the rape victim in the movie, is interviewed in Brutal City. She speaks for fourteen-minutes about her early career doing modelling and commercial work, getting her start as an actress on feature films, and working with Lenzi on this feature, her first film role.

    The Rebel And The Bourgeois gets actress and costume designer Sandra Cardini in front of the camera to talk about her work playing Milian’s sister Sandra in the film as well as what went into the costuming that she was responsible for in the film. It’s an interesting nineteen-minutes that also covers her relationship with Milian and what he was like to be around while making this picture.

    Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti is up next in Vodka, Cigarettes And Burroughs where he gives us a bit of a career overview over the course of almost forty-minutes in length. It’s an interesting talk where he speaks in quite a bit of detail about how and why he started to work with Lenzi, how their earlier efforts led to them working on this picture, how they got along on and off the set, his thoughts on this picture and others that they made and more.

    The last of the interviews is The Godfather Of Rhythm wherein composer Franco Micalizzi talks about his work on the picture and how he went about composing the legitimately fantastic music used in this picture. It’s a thirty-six-minute piece that also covers his family’s background in music, his early days before he got into scoring films, some of the first few pictures he worked on and then becoming known as one of the ‘go to’ guys for the Italian crime film cycle of the seventies.

    Rounding out the extras on the second disc are a few rather massive still galleries of ephemera and related materials – there’s some seriously cool stuff contained in here, make sure you take the time to check them all out. There are a few neat Easter Eggs on this disc as well, including a sixteen-minute documentary entitled Vita a Mano Aramta: The Legend Of The Hunchback Of Quarticciolo and a four-minute tribute to the late Grindhouse co-founder, Sage Stallone.

    And as if that weren’t enough, Grindhouse Releasing has also included the original soundtrack by composer Franco Micalizzi – newly remastered in stunning 24 bit/192khz sound from the original master tapes – on a CD. This CD fits inside a thin cardboard cover that fits inside the embossed slipcover perfectly. We also get double sided cover art, with The Tough Ones poster on one side and the Roma a mano armata locadina art on the reverse.

    Last but not least, the set also contains a full color booklet that holds some interesting liner notes written by Italian crime film expert Roberto Curti well worth reading. Some nice vintage promotional artwork is included in the booklet as well.

    The Tough Ones – The Final Word:

    Movies don’t get much more macho than Umberto Lenzi’s The Tough Ones! Sure, the movie might be a little light on plot and story but it’s got so many unforgettable characters and bad ass set pieces inside that you don’t mind so much. Grindhouse Releasing has done a beautiful job bringing this to Blu-ray. The transfer is gorgeous, the audio rock solid and the extras cover more ground than anyone could have ever hoped for. All in all, a fantastic package that comes highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Tough Ones Blu-ray screen caps!