Products of a cacophanous pop culture, why shouldn't their motives be incoherent? Why else rob a bank and toss a lot of lira out your car windows as you drive through a public marketplace? Why else hook up with another gang to rob a grocery store, only to turn on your new partners and mow them down inside? "Why not?" suggests itself, and that may have to do, because the boys probably don't understand themselves. The girl, Lea (Eleonora Georgi) finally guesses that some subliminal gay feeling between her boyfriend Luis, aka Luigi (Max Delys) and ringleader Mario, aka Blondie (Stefano Patrizi) has something to do with it. But worse than that in her opinion, the boys are already dead inside, and Blondie is "worse than dead." Blondie himself has a hard time figuring out Luigi, the least violent of the three. "You come to destroy the world but you won't run a red light!" he tells his friend. Why does Luigi run with the other two, the more obvious and hopeless mad dogs? Why does Eleonora follow along so passively, as much as she's repelled by the escalating violence, until Luigi finally has to deny her entry into their car before their last ride? It's too easy for juvenile-delinquent films to answer these questions and promise resolution. But unless you take the gay angle more seriously than the filmmakers themselves probably do, you're left with no satisfaction of enlightenment once this film is done.
Oh great, a gun to my head!
No one would mistake two kids screwing in a field for wanted criminals.
By this point in the picture there are fewer opportunities for jokey captions.
But that's okay if you wanted to see a hard-hitting Italian crime movie, because Guerrieri delivers the bloody goods with picturesque panache. Milan is a great place to stage car chases -- with Carlo Lizzani's Bandits in Milan offering the best example -- and Guerrieri makes the most of his locations. He stages decent gunplay on foot as well. Cinematographer Erico Menczer does screencappers like me a favor by keeping characters in focus in the midst of rapid, rushing action -- it certainly helps that the transfer on the Raro Video DVD is crisp and vivid.
Above, an auto graveyard becomes a human graveyard.
Below, Italian police dogs are not playing!
The four young actors in the lead roles capture the desperate inscrutability of their situation that I presume the writer and director intended. Benjamin Lev as Joe goes over the top a bit, but it's not as if we've never seen creeps like him maniacally calling out catchphrases and laughing like jackasses at death. Georgi, Delys and Patrizi need no excuses for their work. Despite the prominence of crime-cinema stalwart Milian on the Raro box cover, Liberi, Armati, Pericolosi (literally, "Free, Armed and Dangerous") is no standard tough-cop movie, as some viewers may discover to their chagrin. It's the sort of film that ends with the cops shrugging in frustration at the futility of their work.
Milian's detective won't learn the answers to the questions he's asking, and neither will the perpetrators learn the truth about themselves, much less face up to it. Whether we can figure it out for ourselves is open to question. We'll get our kicks from the violence or we'll despair for the rootless, hopeless kids, since this film is smartly designed from a commercial standpoint to please different audiences. It won't please everyone and it's definitely open to the charge of exploiting what it denounces, but I think it anticipates and incorporates that criticism by making the kids pop-culture puppets. It's not necessarily a classic of JD cinema, but there's more here than may meet the eye at first glance.