It's been several long years since I've seen a gritty realistic and genuinely good Sicilian mafia epos, hence I was really enthusiast when finding out about the "Maltese" mini-series! Also, the series is set in the year 1976, which incidentally means that it features all the trademarks of my beloved and utmost favorite Poliziotesschi genre, namely: rough macho cop-protagonists with mustaches, savage car chases with fragile Alfa Romeo Giulias and exaggeratedly heavy smoking in concealed spaces! Add to this a fantastic contemporary soundtrack, a compelling plot, strong performances and per episode a few bits of harsh violence, and you've got yourself an absolute must of a euro-crime series.
Roman police commissioner Dario Maltese travels back to his hometown Trapani, in Sicily, to attend the wedding of his oldest friend who's the head of local police. Dario left Trapani when he was sixteen, following the suicide of his father (again, a police commissioner) who got involved in a sex-scandal with a minor. Barely arrived in Trapani, Dario's friend and his fiance are brutally executed in their car. Maltese discovers that his friend was attempting to clean up the mafia practices in Trapani and began to make good progress. Fed up trying to run from his past, Maltese promptly arranges his permanent transfer to Trapani to continue his friend's work and capture his assailants. Needless to say, Maltese rapidly runs into typical mafia obstructions, like utterly corrupt authority figures, key-witnesses getting murdered, money laundering and cover-ups. His persistence as well as his unorthodox methods are nevertheless successful, as he manages to revitalize the team of fatigue inspectors and even uncover some dark secrets surrounding the death of his own father.
The first episode of "Maltese" is extremely powerful and immediately establishes that we are dealing with an intelligent and qualitative series here. Admittedly, the next 3-4 episodes are slightly less absorbing and memorable, but for comprehensible reasons. The plot is thickening, Commissioner Maltese faces dead ends or useless leads in his investigation and there naturally also are the mandatory sub plots, like the romance with the beautiful press photographer. The last three episodes, however, are so suspenseful and fast-paced that I bench-watched them without interruptions. The coastal filming locations are astounding, and likewise are the performances of the entire cast. Throughout the series, there's quite a lot violent content, like stone-cold executions, but evidently several eminent characters in Trapani continue claiming that the Sicilian Mafia is nothing but a fable. Great stuff, highly recommended if you are into Italian exploitation cinema of the 70s (Umberto Lenzi, Stelvio Massi, Fernando Di Leo, ...)