Luciano Lutring (Robert Hoffman) started out as a petty criminal in Milan, but nobody could have predicted the course of his career in the headlines. He hung out with a small gang who may not have dedicated their lives to crime but were not averse to it, and Lutring had begun a series of smash and grab raids on jewellery stores around the city, easy pickings when security was less tight back in those days. As for his private life that was about to become very public indeed, he was out one night when he visited a nightclub where he was enchanted by the singer there, Yvonne (Lisa Gastone), and persuaded her to accept his company for the evening, and one thing led to another...
Lutring was a real criminal, and in Italy became renowned as a police-evading Robin Hood figure, admired for his knack with getting away with his raids, around a hundred of them incredibly, and running rings around the lawmen. Director Carlo Lizzani, best known for his Spaghetti Westerns, took the helm of what was effectively part biopic and part of the approaching cycle of tough thrillers with a crime and police theme that would truly take off in the decade to come, especially when the subject was never out of the Italian media thanks to the feeling that the status quo was about to come crashing down when there was widespread corruption and a society riddled with wrongdoers, with no end of the situation in sight.
That mood of despair was perhaps what fed into the films taking on that material, and also the feeling that if you couldn't do anything to stop the illegal activities, why not celebrate them as the prurient side of the national opinion took hold? This hard to like movie was a good reason why not, as whether it was intentional or otherwise, a criticism or an indulgence of Lutring, he did not come across as anyone worth celebrating here. Indeed, as the film slogged on into its second hour you would be wishing for a conclusion to his life of crime, and as the cops appear to shoot first and asks questions later, it looks as if his anti-hero is due for a date with destiny - of a hail of bullets.
It doesn't quite turn out that way, though it's not far off, which left a story with even after two hours to tell it without much of a finale, it just sort of stopped mid-action sequence and gave us a headline to inform us of his fate (a lot of headlines here, emphasising the role the press had in talking Lutring up as a celebrity) - Lutring eventually died a pardoned free man in 2013. But even before that there was much to object to, as if his public persona as an opportunist thief was not bad enough the way he treated Yvonne was frankly abominable, and the fact she stuck with him through thick and thin was utterly baffling. We all have heard the expression "Love is blind", but in this case love appeared to have been thoroughly beaten into coma by Lutring's behaviour.
In spite of Yvonne frequently professing her love for him, he wastes no opportunity to beat her up when he feels things are not going his way, to the extent of slapping her about and kicking her to the ground when (get this) she was nearly raped by an ex-boyfriend (Claudio Camaso) but the police prevented him, and then told Lutring about the encounter. He sees this as evidence of infidelity, and doles out the violence; it was as if the director was undercutting anything remotely admirable about the criminal at every turn, yet there was also an uneasy feeling that these scenes of dreadful attitudes were intended to keep us watching just to see what he’d get up to next. Only Gian Maria Volontè as the Inspector on the case provides anything like a decent character since Yvonne is conveyed to modern eyes as less a lovelorn victim, and more a complete moron in serious denial. As her beau takes to robbing with a machine gun, we can only watch this tiresome tale unfold at bloated length and wonder how we were meant to react. Ennio Morricone's score offered a reason to stick with it, but that was about it.