Color, 1974, 101 mins. 46 secs. / 76 mins. 20 secs.
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Starring Franco Nero, Giancarlo Prete, Barbara Bach, Renzo Palmer
Code Red (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1, 1.66:1), Blue Underground (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Among Street Lawthe earliest and best of the Street LawItalian poliziotteschi, or urban crime films, that poured out in the 1970s, this gripping variation on the hit Death Wish (which was shot simultaneously) marked the second effort of five efforts in the subgenre's golden age for director Enzo G. Castellari on the heels of his excellent High Crime with Franco Nero. Both director and star are reunited here for this film originally entitled Il cittadino si ribella and one of the strongest entries in a partnership that would continue for many more years.

One afternoon in Genoa, law-abiding businessman Carlo Antonelli (Nero) ends up directly in the path of a gang of robbers holding up a bank in the middle of a city-wide crime spree. They take Carlo hostage and beat him up in the process as a frantic chase with the police ensues, leaving Carlo freed but more than a little disillusioned and shaken up by the experience. Now he feels that law enforcement isn't doing nearly enough to protect and do justice to its citizens, so he decides to track down the trio of criminals responsible for the crime and, by enlisting (or rather extorting) the aid of amiable lowlife Tommy (Prete), he may end up biting off far more than he can chew.

Anyone curious about Street LawNero's enduring appeal to international audiences would do well to make this film one of their first stops as he really gets to pull out all the stops here, showing a great deal of his range here all the way from rage to intense tearful sadness. It's really his show here but everyone does a solid job, even Barbara Bach in a thankless role (almost an extended cameo) as his girlfriend who has a tough time dealing with his moral detours in more Street Lawways than one. Aiding things immensely here is a brash, powerful score by the always reliable Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, who also deliver a couple of memorable (but divisive) songs, "Goodbye My Friend" and "Drivin' All Around." The action scenes are smaller scale than some of Castellari's other films but no less enjoyable with Nero himself getting in on the action in many shots, including one fantastic extended sequence involving a foot and car chase and an unforgettably applied shovel.

Street Law first turned up in U.S. theaters in 1976 from Hallmark Releasing, who hacked it down to a paltry 76 minutes to better fit on double bills and focus mainly on the action sequences. The end result feels more like a long trailer than a full feature, but it still got the idea across. That cut remained the Street Lawstandard on VHS as well via Vidamerica, with the complete version finally turning up on DVD in 2006 from Blue Underground (timed to coincide with the equally important releases of The Big Racket and The Heroin Busters). Since the film was shot in English with Nero providing his own voice, that track has also been the default for most releases over the years including all U.S. editions. The DVD also features a punchy audio commentary with Street LawCastellari and his son interviewed by David Gregory, a theatrical trailer, TV spot, and "Laying Down the Law" featurette with Castellari and Nero.

In 2019, Code Red brought Castellari's film back into circulation with a Blu-ray edition sporting no less than three viewing options. First up is what's touted as a new 2018 HD scan, presented at 1.85:1. It looks excellent with fine film grain and some really beautiful color where it counts, and the framing looks pleasing throughout. (It's also worth noting that the prior DVD features two minutes of additional playout music over black tagged at the end, thus the longer running time.) That main version can also be played with a new audio commentary by Troy Howarth, who starts off by chronicling the film's U.S. release (and the cutting of its entire opening sequence) before diving into the facts about its major participants, Castellari's proficiency with action scenes (including Peckinpah-style slow motion here), highlights from the Italian crime film wave, the identities of the dubbing artists, the challenge of sorting out uncredited actors, and some lively observations about Street LawFranco's cinematic appeal as well as the Hollywood conventions that pop up in the final stretch.

An alternate scan is provided from 2017 framed at 1.66:1 (bearing the title Anonymous Avenger), and while it's interesting to compare some of the framing differences (a lot less on the sides with varying slivers at the top and bottom throughout, apart from some peculiar Street Lawframing oddities in the main titles), it's not the ideal way to see the film. The blacks are paler and it looks significantly less dynamic, plus the more cramped compositions on the sides get to look odd at some points. Finally you get the truncated U.S. cut from a faded print, and it's certainly good to have it back for the first time in many years just for the purposes of comparison as it plays quite differently. All three versions include the usual English track in DTS-HD MA mono. A new video interview with Nero (28m19s), with a really odd-looking frame rate, is an entertaining look back complete with thoughts on his initial apprehension about working with Castellari (unfounded as it turns out), the shooting of this film and High Crime in Genoa, memories of his co-stars, the joys of fishing with a bow and arrow, and side stories about some other projects like The Salamander and working with Bach again on Force 10 from Navarone. A fuzzy-looking theatrical trailer is also included.

2018 1.85:1 Scan

Street Law Street Law Street Law Street Law Street Law

2017 1.66:1 Alternate Scan

Street Law Street Law Street Law

U.S. Version (1.85:1)

Street Law Street Law Street Law

Reviewed on February 2, 2019.