Starring: Alain Delon; Riccardo Cucciolla; Adolfo Lastretti; Gabriella Farinon
Directed by: Jacques Deray
Studio: Kino Video K412
Video: 1.66:1 enhanced for 16:9, color
Audio: PCM Stereo, French with English subtitles
Length: 102 minutes
Jacques Deray delivers (1974) a period gangster melodrama, an heir to Delon’s own The Sicilian Clan, set 1933-1937 in Marseilles, where two warring gangs compete for territorial hegemony. Alain Delon plays Roch Siffredi, a slick operator who seems content to let prostitution and night clubs supply his income. Vicious rival Volpone (Riccardo Cucciolla) waxes more ambitious: he sees the “new order” arise in Germany, and he implies that a healthy dose of heroin on a national scale will enervate all of France’s resistance. At one point he opens a crate of guns meant for Spain. A cameo by veteran actor Anton Diffring aboard a train verifies our suspicions that Volpone is a Fifth Columnist. Is it yet another cameo, a picture of Jean-Paul Belmondo, gracing the tombstone of Siffredi’s recently slain brother? The lovely Catherine Rouvel’s role is strictly cosmetic: she plays window-dressing mistress to Siffredi, presumably the madame of his brothel. In vivid color and generally fast-paced, Borsolino and Co. might be France’s answer to The Cotton Club, except that the novelty acts of Siffredi’s theater come to a bad end – a la Sergio Leone – fairly early in the this vendetta-driven shoot -em-up.
Visually the art direction, costuming, and set design are impeccable, the gangsters’ suits themselves throwing off a lustrous vitality. Everyone sports Thompson machine guns, so there is no shortage of ordinance. After one car shootout, Delon drives his vehicle into a ditch, and is captured, tortured, politically embarrassed, and then shipped to a lunatic asylum. The eponymous title refers to the moving van which returns to Marseilles two years later, bearing inside Siffredi’s reconstituted gang of killers, set to avenge their boss’s dishonor. Andre Falcon plays the ironically disinterested police commissioner, whose philosophy is “to watch and keep score.” When he is replaced with a commissioner decidedly more partisan to Volpone’s cause, we feel Deray is making a direct statement about French collaboration with the fascists. It is only a matter of time for Delon’s panache and ruthlessness to catch up with his adversaries, and Volpone’s execution has a particular contribution to make to the running of a railroad. Maybe more George Raft than James Cagney, Delon projects a classy, stylized demeanor, unruffled even in bondage and alcoholic submission. Whether we buy into the happy ending, a trip for all survivors and lovers to America, depends how much you’d like to see Siffredi open his business in your neighborhood.
— Gary Lemco