Street People (1976)
“One is polished, polite and persuasive. The other is cool, capable and crazy. They both have a way with women.” It’s Roger Moore and Stacy Keach according to the trailer for this Eurocrime thriller that sees our duo getting tangled up with mobsters and a drug running operation.
Moore plays a lawyer and fringe member of the “family” headed by Ivo Garrani. To flesh out the characters in this Muarizio Lucidi directed effort, there’s an occasional flashback thrown at us which includes two brothers going separate ways. Garrani becomes a mobster while his own brother Ettore Manni turns to the Church becoming a man of the cloth. Shades of Cagney and O’Brien?
All of which brings us to the plot point that will get our mobster flick moving. Garrani brings a large crucifix to San Francisco as a nod to the church and his estranged brother. The same one that was in their own church in Sicily. But the crucifix has been used to smuggle drugs into the States and three men are left dead in the cargo carrier. Both Garrani and brother Manni are furious that this holy item could be used in such a way. One wants vengeance, the other chastises his brother for this use of a religious artifact.
Moore is of course much more than a lawyer and is called upon by the Capo to handle it quickly and quietly and to suspect anyone including Garrani himself. First thing Moore does is call up his sidekick/pro driver, Keach. For his part, Keach plays it light and seemed to embrace the sidekick role opposite the world’s reigning James Bond.
With a fortune in drugs about to hit the streets, Moore has Keach hitting the red light district of San Fran looking for leads while he himself is off to Sicily to trace the sale and route the Crucifix took to the States. It’s a trip that yields bloody results as Moore narrowly escapes an attempt on his life. An attempt that sees him turn the violence back towards those who would see him dead.
Moore soon finds himself back in the company of Keach as he traces the whereabouts of the three men who were the mob soldiers involved in the trafficking of the drugs with the crucifix. This makes for an interesting segment with Keach behind the wheel of a two door sedan on the “streets of San Francisco.” No I didn’t spot Karl Malden and Michael Douglas. What we do get is a heavy taste of guerilla filmmaking with Keach in car, speeding and smashing into other vehicles and maneuvering over curbs and sidewalks. It’s so “Eurocrime” that I actually found myself wondering if this was legit or as “off the cuff” as it looked. Turns out that there was not a permit to be found according to a Keach in an interview accompanying the film on the blu ray from Kino Lorber’s Studio Classics brand.
“First we ask questions. Then we drown him.”
Coming from Moore that line plays very much like a James Bond quip with a wink at the camera. Here it’s played light but as Keach is dishing out the punishment to a would be assassin the pair have tracked it’s a tad more serious considering we’re dealing with Mafia activities. Speaking of Bond, after a high speed chase inserted into the plot that finds our pair of leading man fencing with two transport trucks on a winding highway, Keach ends up driving off the road jettisoning the car into a roadside river. Soaked and looking rather haggard, Moore, states matter of factly that the next time Keach is to pick a car, make sure to get one of those amphibious vehicles.
Didn’t Moore’s Bond get one for himself the following year in The Spy Who Loved Me? …. Roger that!
In order to get the mobster behind the sacrilege involving the church Moore and Keach get their hands on the fortune in white powder before it hits the streets. By doing so they can let it be known they are in business for themselves and for a cool million sell it back to the Mafiosi which will only serve to bring the unknown perpetrator out into the open to be dealt with via swift mob justice.
More to come involving arthouse flashbacks and Moore’s trip to the church but I’ll leave the rest for you to calculate.
A rather choppy film and I’ve a hard time accepting the fact that Moore who already had two Bond films under his belt would sign on to a crime drama that with all due respect seems beneath him at this point in his career. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind the film as a whole but considering Moore’s standing in the movie world at this time shouldn’t he have been appearing in larger scale action films than a Euro import promoted by Samuel Z. Arkloff and AIP here in North America? Dare I say the cash?
Moore is Moore as far as his performance goes and that is to say he is more or less playing it the way he always does and hey, it works for me. Keach on the other hand is playing second banana and does his best to play off Moore and does it well. It brought to mind The Persuaders TV show that had Moore playing alongside Tony Curtis. A show I’ve long been a fan of.
“He had a great charm.” This from Keach about his costar in the accompanying interview which is quite enjoyable as the actor recalls his involvement with the production. He speaks fondly of the car stunts and doing his own driving. And as to communicating with the Italian director, Lucidi, it was mostly done with body language and tone. As to the director who passed in 2005, his career started off in the peplum genre on a Hercules outing moving right along to the spaghetti western including a Jack Palance number, It Can Be Done Amigo, a Henry Silva wartime actioner, Heroes Never Die, onwards to the Eurocrime thriller and while I’m no expert in translating, might he have ended off in porn? I’ll let you do the research on that and get back to me if you must.
While there are better films on the resume of each actor and the Eurocrime genre, this is an easy film to take in if you like the leads and appreciate the on screen chemistry they bring to the film. And like the trailer states about Moore and Keach …. “They’re the most lovable bad guys in the business.”