14 November 2017 | Coventry
Overlooked but solid Poliziotesschi
For starters, this is probably the only Poliziotesschi/Euro-crime thriller of which the title in English sounds cooler than the original Italian one! Usually the lengthy and almost poetic sounding original titles are abruptly altered with catchy sounding English words or superlatives (one of the aka's here is actually "Blood, Sweat and Fear"), but the most commonly used title is "Mark the Narc" and that pretty much suits the film perfectly. Secondly, and speaking as a die-hard fan of the Euro-crime sub genre, I don't understand why "Mark the Narc" isn't more regarded as a modest classic or at least more frequently mentioned by fellow admirers of the genre! Perhaps it's because other master-directors like Umberto Lenzi and Fernando Di Leo were simultaneously unleashing numerous Poliziotesschi classics that were grittier and much more violent than this one, or perhaps it's simply because writer/director Stelvio Massi stubbornly opted to cast the unconventional Franco Gasparri rather than the familiar genre icon Maurizio Merli. Fact remains, however, that "Mark the Narc" is a more than solid, suspenseful and straightforward Poliziotesschi with memorable stunt work, competent acting performances and a fantastic soundtrack (courtesy of the almighty Stelvio Cipriani).
The plot is formulaic, but we honestly don't expect or even desire it to be different in this genre! Mark Terzi is an honorable young police commissioner on a dedicated mission to cleanse the streets of his beloved Milan and get rid of all the filthy drug-related crimes and trafficking. Mark knows that the wealthy businessman Benzi is heading all the criminal networks in town but, as usual with this type of jerks, he is a well-respected citizen and enjoys the protection from all prominent politicians. In order to bring him down at last, Mark is forced to take out all of Benzi's henchmen and adjuncts, including relentless murderers and corrupt fellow police officers, and by doing so he doesn't only put his own life at risk but also that of important witnesses. As much as I also love Umberto Lenzi's outrageous Poliziotesschi-thrillers ("Violent Naples", "Almost Human"), the emphasis here clearly lies more on plot and character development rather than on cruel violence and randomly shooting as many innocent bystanders as possible. Several sequences in "Mark the Narc" are integer and stylish, like the relationship Mark develops with the heroine-addicted girl or the genuine grief he experiences after what happens to his partner. In Lenzi's films, aspects like these are merely footnotes and are preferably replaced by another virulent car chase. Don't be too alarmed, though, as "Mark the Narc" definitely does contain loads of blood-pumping action and nasty executions (the truck!). One supportive character in particular is responsible for a few notable moments of sadistic violence, namely the stone-cold and merciless killer named Grüber. It's a genuine mystery to me why the actor portraying him – Carlo Duran – never appeared in other Eurocrime thrillers, as his appearance is naturally intimidating and pure evil. Franco Gasparri is terrific in his protagonist role as well, and the mandatory American import-star Lee J. Cobb is very professional as the despicable lead villain.
I urge all my fellow Poliziotesschi lovers to give "Mark the Narc" a proper chance. Even if you've seen all the classics and some of the more obscure hidden gems, this exemplary Eurocrime thriller is likely to still enchant and entertain you! As the ultimate proof of Italian craftsmanship, two sequels were released in a span of barely one and a half year. I'd really like to watch them as well, but so far I haven't been successful in tracking them down.