Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976): Fight Like a Brave

I know it was just back at the beginning of last month I covered a film by Ruggero Deodato, but thanks to Big Willie of The Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnite Cinema, I finally got my hands on a copy of Deodato’s polizia Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (Uomini si nasce poliziotti si muore). So since I’m kicking off my seasonal series, Spring Into Action, what better way to kick it off than with a little Euro-crime action, and boy, does Live Like a Cop deliver. It delivers chase scenes, misogynistic commentary, knock down brawls, intense violence, and some of the most homo-erotic moments I’ve seen outside of professional wrestling. If you don’t believe me all you have to do is scroll down and take a look at the picture of Ray Lovelock in his pink undies, and you will no longer have any doubt.

Deodato’s entry into the Polizia genre provides the genre hopping director with another stab at a trend. Nestled between his erotic thriller Wave of Lust (1975) and 1977’s Jungle Holocaust, Live Like a Cop was born from a script by noted Euro-crime director Fernando Di Leo. By the late Seventies, Di Leo had moved on to directing crime films of a lighter strain such as Loaded Guns and Nick the Sting. The script for Live Like A Cop, though lightly touched by a comedic element, was far more violent and mean spirited than the films Di Leo was directing at the time, but it was right in Deodato’s wheelhouse.

Dark haired Fred (Marc Porel) and the blond Tony (Ray Lovelock) are members of a super secret police squad intent to prevent crimes predicted by a massive (though never seen) computer. The duo, picked for their ability to think like criminals, have a unique take no prisoners style of policing, and they are not beyond blowing up cars, shooting criminals on the street, or worse to stop crime in Rome. This ultimately pits them against crime boss Roberto Pasquini (Renato Salvatori), and the pair of loose cannons will have to fight, chase, and blow away anyone who stands in their way if they want to bring him down. Oh, and they’ll probably find time to share a lovely lady or two, but it’s all in a days work for these cops.

As the film begins and you see Porel driving a motorcycle with Lovelock riding bitch, don’t try and hold back your laughter; you’ll only hurt yourself. Just sit back and enjoy of the most sexually confused movie not directed by Ken Russell. The scene quickly turns butch as the pair take off on a breakneck chase through urban Rome (happily on separate bikes) after a woman is violently dragged to her death. Yes, this is still a Deodato film so expect to see the red stuff flow quite a bit though not nearly to the extent of films like his Jungle Trilogy or even Lenzi’s Violent Naples. None of the bloody violence is gratuitous, but not to worry, because Deodato made gratuitous use of nearly everything else. The main thing that has to be mentioned is that after the numerous, and seemingly blatant, homosexual overtones the film generally follows them up with a string of misogynistic statements or actions. I’m not sure if it was supposed to strike a balance, if Di Leo handed Deodato a script more laden with jokes than the director might have realized, or if time and cultural differences make this film seem more schizophrenic than it actually is.

Porel and Lovelock’s characters come off like a mix between Starsky and Hutch and the 13 year old boys who loved Starsky and Hutch. I enjoyed watching both of them give solid charismatic performances, but I spent most of my time rolling my eyes at their “loose cannon” actions and the audacious way they treat women. I hate to keep coming back to that, but even for an Italian film, it was pretty raw. Now the female character who takes the brunt of it, the police captain’s secretary Norma played by Silvia Dionisio, gives as good (if not better) than she gets, but I think it still bears mentioning. It took me a while to get into Live Like a Cop because the two leads were essentially unlikable, but eventually the charismatic charm of the actors shined through and won me over.

The only other performances worth picking out were Adolfo Celi as the pair’s long suffering captain and Renato Salvatori as the villainous Pasquini. Celi never becomes the Lethal Weapon style captain that you wish he would become, but instead he exhibits a kind of “you crazy kids” attitude to the partners when they return from blowing up 20 cars. Renato Salvatori was nearly 20 years removed from his career making turn in Mario Monicrlli’s 1958 film Big Deal on Madonna Street (I soliti ignoti), but the solid character actor makes the most of his role as Pasquini. He has limited screen time, but Salvatori makes for a slimy, powerful villain for the lawless lawmen to peruse.

There are several areas where this film could be found lacking, and I have to take some time to talk about them. The plot kind of meanders along with very little exposition as to who characters are or what is going on, and the screenplay never congeals into a fully connected storyline. The rivalry with the crime boss is brought in much too late, and over half the film features Frank and Tony busting small time hoods and looking like they might kiss any second. One thing that usually always stands out in a Polizia is the music, but in the case of Ubaldo Continiello’s reserved score, that is not the case. There were several times in the film I wondered why the score wasn’t kicking in only to have it show up lightly in other segments. None of the themes could be described as pulse pounding, and for a film with a couple of good chase scenes, that is nearly unforgivable. I don’t have anything great to say about the cinematic styling of director of photography Guglielmo Mancori. While stylish and exciting at moments, the action scenes are the only thing that pops while the rest of the film looks flat and needed more movement. Moncori would go on to work on Fulci’s Manhattan Baby, another film that suffered from flat visuals.

On the whole, I’m glad to have seen the film, but found it to be only slightly better than average compared to other films of its ilk. Deodato made several one-offs, a single erotic thriller, one western, an adventure film, but he only seemed to be able to hit a stride when his films took him out of the city and deep into the jungle. Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man will be interesting to Deodato and Euro-crime fans, and it is definitely worth tracking down. As long as you keep your hopes down and your eyes up so you don’t catch any unwanted glances at Lovelock’s pink underwear, then this film should provide more than enough to enjoy.

Bugg Rating 

Unfortunately I can't embed the German Trailer that I found, but you can click HERE to check it out on You Tube. In it's place rather than put the cruddy clip from the film that I could embed, I decided to link the song that inspired tonight's subtitle, The Red Hot Chili Peppers with "Fight Like A Brave".

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