Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Contraband (1980)

People tend to forget the other directorial ventures of horror directors. Carpenter did TV movies, Romero did "There's Always Vanilla" and a documentary about O.J. Simpson (this was before...well, you know), Argento and Bava did westerns, etc. The list goes on. Lucio Fulci is another good example. Though he did his first foray into the genre in 1969 with the giallo "One on Top of the Other" aka "Perversion Story" and is mostly known for his outrageously gory horror films of the 80's, he had been directing since 1959, and had done everything from Vaudeville style comedies to westerns. Then there's his foray into the popular violent crime films from Italy, 1980's "Contraband."

Luca Di Angelo (Fabio Testi-*snicker*) is a cigarette smuggler with a wife and kid, and can be a tough guy when push comes to shove. Well, a rival gang of cocaine smugglers is in town, and they mean business. Well, Luca isn't interested in coke, so he declines. Well, each member of his gang starts getting knocked off in grisly fashion, his brother is killed, and his wife and son are kidnapped. So yep, push has come to shove.

Though not a horror movie, and featuring some glaring faults (it mostly isn't that different from other Italian crime films of the time, the score from Fabio Frizzi is hit and miss, and there's a moment or two of inopportune comedy), it's still a piece of nasty, nihilistic exploitation that should please fans of this kind of thing. One of the the most notable things about is how violent and gory the whole enterprise is. Luca's wife is raped, a woman has her face disfigured by a Bunsen Burner, a man has a hole shot into his neck and throat region, a man literally had his guts blown out, etc. Granted, it's Fulci era 1980, so that's expected. It also has all of the other things associated with the director at the time-namely zoom shots and fog drenched atmosphere-that makes it unmistakably his.

It's also worth noting that Fulci actually let's the audience spend some time with a few of the characters, and while most of them aren't exactly the most wholesome bunch, you still get a sense and feel for them before and after some of them meet grisly fates. He also has a fine leading man in Testi (I'm sorry, I can't help but laugh after saying his name), who surprisingly isn't bland or uninteresting. Plus, the fact that we get to see his home and family life adds weight to his character arc.

Though not one of his best, "Contraband" still comes with a recommendation for Fulci fans, especially those interested in what he could do outside of the horror genre. For fans of violent, ugly exploitation films, they'll want to give this a shot too.

Rating: 7.5/10
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