First released in 1975, Sergio Martino's poliziottesco (Italian crime/police drama) focuses on the political turmoil that formed a key aspect of the movement in Italian cinema at the time. Silent Action tells the story about the murder of a high-ranking army official that turns out to be much more than just a simple murder investigation. With possible links to a wider conspiracy that threatens to destabilise the infrastructure of the Italian state, Inspector Giorgio Solmi (Luc Merenda) heads the investigation. Solmi's no-nonsense methods and sheer tenacity result in him being dragged further and further into the web of deceit that lurks barely beneath the surface of society.
This release of the film is beautifully restored, with snappy dialogue and slick editing that facilitates a couple of exciting chase sequences (plus a very impressive helicopter sequence), but there's nothing especially subversive about the narrative itself. There are seeds here of perhaps a more substantial story that delves deeper into the socio-political elements that it seems keen to explore, but that aspect is nothing more than hinted at throughout. Instead, the film prefers to tell the formulaic tale of a detective waylaid by police bureaucracy and working against the system to try to save it. It wears its influences on its sleeve, and there is certainly a noirish sensibility about the detective tale, but there's nothing to sink your teeth into for the film to feel like a more substantive experience.
The performances are however, very strong, with some of the interactions between characters very well written, providing a bite that is lacking in the narrative. The thrills to be found in the cover-ups and conspiracies start to lag behind the joy found in the thrill of the chase, and undoubtedly the film's best sequences are found when Solmi is chasing down a suspect. The chase scenes, whether they are in cars, in the air or on foot, feel urgent and dynamic, grounding the somewhat convoluted artifice of the central conspiracy plot.
Otherwise, in amidst the grittiness is a simple police procedural dressed up to look far more complicated. The different pieces of the plot at times feel too disparate to truly come together for a satisfying ending. While at times the film does manage to engage you, it's never more than artificial, and the ending doesn't impact as hard as it should. There is a film in here somewhere that is more powerful than the one we end up with. It's a shame that Silent Action doesn't quite manage to deliver.
Although a watchable and handsomely mounted production, Silent Action is still not quite hard-hitting enough to be anything more than moderately engaging, despite the interesting subject matter.
Silent Action is available on Blu-Ray from Monday April 12th 2021