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Tony Arzenta (Blu-ray Review)

3 min read

Radiance Films

Once in a while, it is possible to spot what will be a great film before watching it. Sometimes, a film's quality is that obvious. In the case of Duccio Tessari's 1973 film Tony Arzenta, also known as Big Guns, the idea of the great (of Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rouge, for example) starring in a ‘70s Eurocrime thriller is more than enough to sell the film as worth seeing.

And worth seeing it certainly is. Tony Arzenta is an excellent thriller from start to finish. It has terrific set-pieces, a strong and versatile leading performance and a thorny, bleaker side which explores mafia hierarchy. The film is as icy as it is thrilling, with some of ‘70s cinema's finest car chase action included.

From its intelligent introduction, the film's qualities are clear. We meet the titular Tony Arzenta at his son's birthday party, in a moment of mundane chaos. Arzenta is chasing after children one moment and suddenly called to work the next. The reveal that Arzenta is a hitman, specifically a hitman for the mafia, is brilliantly communicated as he very calmly shoots a man. The kill is understated and minimal, made chilling by the calm with which it occurs. 

Delon's performance of Arzenta is the beating heart of a film that some may find stoic to an off-putting degree. Delon, always strong at playing stoic but suffering characters, doesn't give his best work but is certainly good enough here to capture the viewer's attention. He plays his character's nervous determination brilliantly, re-capturing the style of his work with Jean-Pierre Melville. 

The influence of Melville is seen in Tony Arzenta more generally, too. The film's cinematography, by Silvano Ippoliti of The Great Silence, is fuelled by tracking shots and slow zoom-ins-and-outs. Ippoliti's work is slick and consistent in its style. The colours of the film, undoubtedly enhanced by ' restorative work, pop and contribute to the film's moodiness. The surprisingly bright greens of tree leaves are effectively contrasted by the dark reds of mafia meeting rooms. Gianni Ferrio's score is equally impactful, chaotic one moment and cool the next. Ferrio slips between funky and anxious in his sound, enhancing the film's emotional pull.

What works brilliantly in Tony Arzenta is its witty contrast between Delon's assassin and the men at the top of the mafia's hierarchy. Delon's character is intense and focused, but the ways that Tessari portrays Arzenta's tenderness is great. There is a complete detachment to the scenes with the mafia members (other than with Richard Conte's character Nick Gusto) that quietly highlights Arzenta's emotional side.

Featuring second-to-none set piece work, a strong main performance and many subversive surprises throughout, Tony Arzenta once again proves Radiance Films' ability to select underrated films and to present them in excellent quality. The film is very strong, and well deserving of Radiance's premier treatment.

Special Features

  • New restoration, presented on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK
  • Uncompressed mono PCM Italian and English audio options
  • Archival interview with Alain Delon in which he discusses his role as a producer, his acting work and collaborators (1973, 12 mins) 
  • A new interview with Eurocrime authority Mike Malloy on the film's place within the poliziottesco canon  (2024, 11 mins)
  • Select-scene commentary with critic Peter Jilmstad on the incredible supporting cast of the film (2024, 53 mins)
  • Trailer
  • Newly translated English subtitles for Italian audio and English SDH subtitles for English audio
  • Reversible sleeve featuring designs based on original posters
  • Limited edition booklet featuring new writing by scholar Leila Wimmer 
  • Limited edition of 3000 copies, presented in full-height Scanavo packaging with removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings

Tony Arzenta will be released by Radiance Films on March 25th