In crime-ridden Seventies Turin dogged Inspector Vanni (Marcel Bozzuffi) leads a police raid that turns into a bloody shootout with an armed gang led by a criminal mastermind known as the Black Angel (Ivan Rassimov). When Vanni kills the Black Angel's brother the ruthless mobster retaliates by murdering Vanni's wife in front of their young son. He then disappears leaving the cop a broken man. Years later the Black Angel resurfaces with a plan to plant explosive devices around Turin and hold the city to ransom for ten-million dollars. Only now Vanni heads a special squad of crack-shot stunt-biker cops that shoot first and ask questions later.
The multi-authored screenplay, which includes input from Dallamano, draws a few uncomfortable parallels between the trigger-happy cops and real government-sanctioned death squads active in Europe and Latin America around this time. Yet the film consistently struggles to make up its mind as to whether we are meant to view them as tragic heroes or gung-ho, morally dubious idiots given they repeatedly fail to save innocent lives. Questions about police ethics and transparency are raised then frustratingly given short shrift while the press are portrayed as one-note ghouls. As the tit-for-tat brutality escalates (in a wince-inducing scene: one crook gets his fingers sliced off by a car door) Colt .38 Special Squad conveys some sense of a futile cycle of rage and revenge that entraps cops and criminals alike with helpless ordinary folks caught in the crossfire. A subplot sees the Black Angel take advantage of his right-hand man Guido's (Antonio Marsina) relationship with glamorous nightclub owner Sandra (Carole André) to use her as an unwitting stooge. In the time-honoured tradition of misogynistic Italian crime films Sandra predictably suffers a great deal abuse before making her exit. Interestingly the film registers far more emotion over the fate of second-string cop characters like Nico (Riccardo Salvino) despite portraying them for the most part as smarmy, cocksure and amoral.
For the most part action and suspense override any potent social commentary. Dallamano maintains a blistering pace. He employs a lot of effective hand-held tracking shots as the near-suicidal stunt team pull off spectacular chase sequences. By contrast the film's abundant dodgy disco dance scenes are nowhere near as well choreographed. Look out for a young Grace Jones lip-synching away at Sandra's nightclub.