Release Date(s)1976 (July 9, 2019)
Studio(s)Dania Film/Medusa Distribuzione/National Cinematografica/Aquarius Releasing (Grindhouse Releasing)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A+
Umberto Lenzi’s name is all but too familiar to deep-diving genre fans, most of whom lean towards his horror efforts Eyeball and Nightmare City, as well as his cannibal films Eaten Alive! and Cannibal Ferox. However, he also dabbled in Poliziotteschi (aka Eurocrime), an Italian police genre with titles like Violent Naples, Manhunt in the City, and one of his better entries, The Tough Ones (aka Roma a mano armata, Rome Armed to the Teeth, Brutal Justice, Assault with a Deadly Weapon).
No matter what you call the film, The Tough Ones features many of the traits of Eurocrime cinema, including aggressive and uncompromising cops, sleazy and resourceful criminals, gratuitous violence, car chases, shootouts, and chaotic plotlines. The loose framework of The Tough Ones involves inspector Leonardo (Maurizio Merli), a cop who is disgusted by busting the bad guys and watching them go free to commit more atrocities. The chief of police (Arthur Kennedy) is fed up with Leonardo’s flagrant disregard for the rules, particularly in regards to his handling of cases involving gang crime. Even Leonardo’s girlfriend Anna (Maria Rosario Omaggio) feels neglected because of his obsession with the job. Meanwhile, a hunchbacked criminal (Tomas Milian) is planning some revenge against Leonardo after his treatment during questioning, but not before Leonardo takes on every other criminal in the city.
The Tough Ones is by no means your standard police procedural. The cops are often questionable and the criminals are such awful people that there tends to be a blurred line between who’s on which side of the law. Characters are often two dimensional (even one dimensional in some cases), driven by a single purpose without much shading to them. Leonardo is simply a cop who wants to do more, but feels hindered by the strict rule of the law. He constantly argues with everybody he knows about these matters, and he’s always proven right when one of the criminals that he’s recently caught is let go and goes out to hurt somebody else.
However, story isn’t all that important in a film like this. It’s pure exploitation, meaning that there are many scenes of violence, and in one instance, rape. Even a couple of young purse snatchers on a motorcycle are thwarted by Leonardo, who always seems to be in the right place at the right time when these events to occur. There’s even a fourth wall breaking moment when his partner mentions the script and the convenience of Leonardo’s presence during a drive-by attempt to rob a motorist who is broken down on the side of the road. What’s odd about the line is that the film is not an out-and-out parody, yet it makes clear that it’s fully aware of the tropes of the genre.
Whether Leonardo is crawling through duct work during a bank robbery to surprise the perpetrators, beating the hunchbacked man during a bout of questioning, or fighting off a pool hall full of young guys after they brutally rape a woman, The Tough Ones is kind of all over the place when it comes to its plot. It’s no different than many similar films from this era, such as Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man, Shoot First, Die Later, and Execution Squad, among many others. It’s over-the-top entertainment, made during a time when being politically correct wasn’t a priority, especially when it came to exploitation movies.
Grindhouse Releasing brings The Tough Ones to Blu-ray with a 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative in the original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. As with all of their presentations, it’s a stunner. Grain management is thoroughly even, leaving nothing but clear, crisp, and precise images loaded with high levels of fine detail in close-ups, mid-shots, and backgrounds. Even the finer facets of objects, clothing, and skin textures are on full display. Color reproduction is also remarkable, utilizing a series of potent period hues and skin tones; reds, greens, and blues pop off the screen with great clarity. Blacks are deep, contrast and brightness levels are virtually perfect, and everything appears clean and stable with the only leftover damage relegated to mild speckling and extremely minor color variances in a couple of shots.
The audio is presented in English and Italian 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English and English for the Italian audio. Both tracks excel with little room for complaint, but there are minor differences between the two. The Italian track is slightly more narrow but with more pronounced music and sound effects while the English track's dialogue is a tad wider with a bit more bass to it. However, the sounds of the guns on both tracks are no different from each other, and the excellent pulsating score comes through with blistering precision. Both tracks are also clean with no leftover instances of hiss, crackle, dropouts, or distortion.
As if the dynamite A/V presentation weren’t enough, this release is packed with an exhaustive amount of bonus material to cull through as well. On Disc One, which contains the film itself, there’s an audio commentary with journalist Mike Malloy, who gives plenty of great information about the film, its cast and crew, and the Eurocrime genre; All Eyes on Lenzi: The Life and Times of the Italian Exploitation Titan, an 84-minute documentary about Umberto Lenzi and his films featuring a number of interview subjects, including Lenzi himself, critics Calum Waddell, Rachael Nisbet, John Martin, academic Mikel Koven, author Manilo Gomarasca, actors Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Danilo Mattei, and filmmaker Scooter McCrae; Music for Mayhem, a 33-minute discussion from 2010 between Umberto Lenzi and composer Franco Micalizzi; Citta’ Frontale (Full Frontal City): The Urban Geography of Roma a Mano Armata, a vintage 22-minute look at the film’s various locations; Sybil Danning’s Adventure Video VHS intro for the film; the 3 1/2-minute international trailer, presented in HD; a 30-second home video trailer; and a set of Grindhouse Releasing Prevues with a Play All option, including Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Massacre Mafia Style, Gone with the Pope, Pieces, Scum of the Earth, The Beyond, Cat in the Brain, An American Hippie in Israel, Corruption, The Swimmer, The Big Gundown, I Drink Your Blood, Captive Female, Death Game, and Ice House.
Disc Two is a mix of new and older material, some of it newly-created by Freak-O-Rama Productions, including interviews with various members of the cast and crew who discuss their careers. There’s Umberto, a new 56-minute interview with Umberto Lenzi; Tomas Milian: The Rebel Within, a new 89-minute interview with the actor; The Merli Connection, a vintage 45-minute tribute to the late actor Maurizio Merli; Back Story, another 6-minute interview with actor Tomas Milian, which took place in Miami Beach in 2011; Beauty and the Beasts, a new 30-minute interview with actor Maria Rosaria Omaggio; Corrado Armed to the Teeth, a new 45-minute interview with actor Corrado Solari; Brutal City, a new 14-minute interview with actor Marisa Rosaria Riuzzi; The Rebel and the Bourgeois, a new 19-minute interview with actor and costume designer Sandra Cardini; Vodka, Cigarettes and Burroughs, a new 40-minute interview with screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti; The Godfather of Rhythm, a new 36-minute interview with composer Franco Micalizzi; 5 still galleries containing 53 stills of promotional materials from Italy, Spain, Germany, and the U.S., including posters, lobby cards, home video artwork, and soundtrack artwork; and a set of Disc Production Credits.
There are also Easter eggs to be found. On Disc One, clicking down when Extras is selected will reveal an HD intro for the film under its alternate title Assault with a Deadly Weapon. In the Extras menu, clicking left when All Eyes on Lenzi is selected will reveal a “Warning” label – click it for a 4 1/2 minute Spanish trailer for Hazlos Morir Lentamente (Cannibal Ferox, aka Make Them Die Slowly). Also in the Extras menu, clicking left when Citta’ Frontale is selected will reveal a face – click it to see a 6-minute video of a man speaking about both the film and the current state of Italian cinema on the streets of Rome. On Disc Two, clicking right when The Rebel Within is selected will reveal a picture of Tomas Milian’s hunchback character – click it to see the vintage 17-minute featurette “Vita a Mano Armata”: The Legend of the Hunchback of Quarticciolo. Clicking left when The Godfather of Rhythm is selected will reveal Sage Stallone’s face – click it to see a 4-minute tribute to the late actor and film distributor by Franco Micalizzi. And clicking left when the “Close” option is selected on the Disc Production Credits screen will reveal Tomas Milian – click his picture to see a 1-minute outtake of him saying hello to Bob Murawski.
Also included in a separate cardboard sleeve is a CD soundtrack for the film featuring 17 tracks of Franco Micalizzi’s score; a 12-page insert booklet featuring the essay Roma a mano armata by Roberto Curti, as well as a set of chapter titles; and for the first 2,500 units, a collectible .38 caliber metal bullet ink pen. All of this material is packaged within an embossed slipcase.
It’s worth noting that the Mondo Region 2 DVD release contains an audio commentary with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti and Michele De Angelis, and the Nocturno Region 2 DVD release contains the Il Braccio Violento Della Legge featurette, neither of which are included here. But with the amount of material put together for this release, those are easy to overlook.
This is another amazing package from Grindhouse Releasing, a company that rarely releases a new title, but when it does, it puts every effort into its quality. The Tough Ones is a vital piece of Eurocrime cinema that, until now, has been sorely missing from the Blu-ray format. Needless to say, this release is an essential purchase. Highly recommended!
– Tim Salmons