• The Big Racket (Blue Underground) DVD Review

    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: April 25th, 2006.
    Director: Enzo G. Castellari
    Cast: Fabio Testi, Vincent Gardenia
    Year: 1976
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    The Big Racket – Movie Review:

    On of a few notable high octane crime films directed by Enzo G. Castellari (The Cold Eyes of Fear, The New Barbarians), and starring the always reliable Fabio Testi (Contraband, Revolver), Il Grande Racket, or The Big Racket as it’s known stateside, is a superior example of the 70s Italian crime film.

    Fabio Testi plays a rough and tumble police officer named Nico Palmieri, who gets involved in trying to break up a protection racket being run by some hoods in a small Italian town. They’ve been going around extorting insane amounts of money from the local businessmen using the all too real threat of sadistic violence against them should they not pay up. As such, these guys want the cops to do something about it, and that's where Nico comes into play.

    Eventually a restaurant owner is approached by Palmieri and agrees to talk, but when the thugs find out, his only daughter is brutally raped (in what is, in its uncut form, as presented here, is a truly grisly scene). When Palmieri connects the thugs to a bigger picture, namely an international drug smuggling ring, he is booted off the force and no longer allowed to investigate. In turn, Nico teams up with five of the townsmen who have been wronged by the hoods and the body count grows and grows….

    The Big Racket is a gritty, and exceptionally violent crime film. Very fast paced, the film feels very much like it could have been an Italian version of Death Wish (and in fact it stars Vincent Gardenia [Sadly, dubbed by someone else] from the first two entries in that same Bronson starring series). Testi’s better than he usually is in this role and he comes across as quite the genuine bad ass. While not all of the effects and set pieces work perfectly (some of the bullet wounds are not convincing at all), most of them do work nicely and there’s no shortage of explosions, firefights, brawls and nasty crimes on display here. There a few standout stunt set pieces here as well, that add to the fun.

    Castellari has a great eye for directing action and this film shows that off perfectly. It’s also very well shot as the camera manages to pull the viewer into the excitement. By the end of the film you’ll find yourself cheering for Nico and his crew as they inevitably showdown with the scum who’ve been terrorizing the town. We want these guys to come out on top, and we feel for their plight.

    When the smoke clears and the dust settles, there's enough action, violence and tough guy posturing to make this a solid recommendation to anyone who likes their crime movies fast, gritty, and violent.

    The Big Racket – DVD Review:

    Blue Underground presents The Big Racket in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85.1, and with a transfer that is enhanced for anamorphic television sets and properly flagged for progressive scan playback. This NTSC version is a major improvement over the previous PAL Vipco release. The film transfer is so much cleaner and clearer revealing a lot of detail that was previously hidden in muddier, less pristine transfer such as what appears to be a c-section scar on rape victim in the second rape scene. The pastel color scheme is accurately rendered, reds are well defined without bleeding into the other colors and the grain is light. Aside from the odd speck here and there, print damage is a non-issue. Obviously a new high definition master would be very welcome, but for a DVD released well over a decade ago, this looks fine. Best of all the Blue Underground release, unlike the Vipco release, is fully uncut. The above mentioned rape scene is much longer and much more unsettling. It gives Death Wish II’s famous scene a run for the money in terms of disgust.

    The Big Racket is presented in an English language Dolby Digital Mono track that, quite honestly, doesn’t sound too bad at all. Dialogue is pretty clear, and the score has enough punch to it that it works. Not much can be done with the elements and the conditions for older films sometimes, but thankfully this one sounds alright even if it isn't perfect.

    The main extra feature for this release is a commentary track with director Enzo G. Castellari, his son and Blue Underground moderator David Gregory. Castellari and his son speak English pretty well, so it's never a chore to sit though, and thankfully Castellari's recollections of the time he spent making this one are pretty sharp. Gregory is an obvious fan of the genre and asks pertinent questions about not only The Big Racket but also about some of Enzo G. Castellari's other contribution to the genre. Humorously enough, Castellari recalls how a lot of the American actors who come to Italy to make films couldn't stop eating the wonderful cuisine. It's a well-rounded track that fills in a few blanks as to the movie's history and that also supplies some interesting trivia about the locations on which it was made the performers that Castellari's used in the cast.

    Rounding out the extra features are a spoiler filled Italian trailer for the film - if you haven't seen the movie before, watch it first and save the trailer for later on as it does ruin a few key scenes.

    The Big Racket – The Final Word:

    One of the best Euro-crime films finally gets an uncut release with a good standard definition A/V presentation. Eurocrime fans should consider The Big Racket a mandatory purchase and the commentary track only solidifies that. If you are unfamiliar with the Euro-crime genre, this film is definitely one of the best places to start.