Quiet, unassuming Renzo Dominici (Franco Nero) is a crippled old accountant at a large bank firm who maintains a strict routine. He arrives early each day. Works diligently. Knows every inch of the business. Tries very hard not to succumb to the flirtatious advances of Stella (Dalilah Di Lazzaro) the sexy young nymphomaniac who works in the cafeteria. And is always last to leave. All because in reality Renzo is a dashing young thief in disguise plotting a major heist. Yet when Renzo finally pulls off his meticulously planned robbery not everything goes according to plan. A few witnesses catch a glimpse of his distinctively dreamy blue eyes.
Franco Nero was the biggest star associated with Italian crime thrillers and probably the best actor. Partly because rather than recycle the same hard-boiled persona in film after film, like say Maurizio Merli or Henry Silva, he played a variety of characters. His talents are well served by The Blue-Eyed Bandit which for the most part downplays the usual sordid thrills in favour of a psychological character study. Aspects of the plot bear comparison with the superior Elliot Gould vehicle The Silent Partner (1978), among the finest crime thrillers of the Seventies, albeit with a slightly lighter tone to its first two acts.
Alfredo Giannetti, who won an Oscar for co-writing Divorce, Italian Style (1961), was largely active in comedy and social drama although he also penned another Franco Nero vehicle: The Shark Hunter (1979). His comedy background is evident in the script with its wry observations about office life and bawdy banter. Indeed the subplot concerning Stella's amorous liaisons with a horny co-worker (Pier Francesco Poggi) are straight out of an Italian sex farce. Yet the film skilfully interweaves this and a few other seemingly frivolous threads into the suspenseful heist story. Plus more of Dalilah Di Lazzaro, hitherto cinema's sexiest Frankenstein monster in Andy Warhol's Flesh for Frankenstein (1973), is always a good thing. The former model displays a largely untapped flair for light comedy. In a charming touch Stella finds Renzo sexy even under his balding wig and old man makeup, before the plot takes a darker turn.
For all Renzo's meticulous planning the robbery goes awry in a rather mundane yet thoroughly believable way. It forces him to contend with several obstacles including nosy Stella and her sleazy boss (Sergio Tabor). There are also a suspicious security guard (Franco Javarone) and a gay hustler named Rick (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) whose life Renzo spared earlier when he caught him trying to steal his wallet. All the while the cops are on Renzo's trail. The subplot wherein Renzo's rejection of Rick drives the latter to seek vengeance, hunting him down by the smell of his aftershave (!) adds a problematic layer of homophobia sadly symptomatic of Italian crime thrillers at the time. To the film's credit it draws parallels between Renzo and the supporting cast who are all similarly looking to escape sad, unfulfilling lives. Ultimately money is less important to Renzo than freedom. The Blue-Eyed Bandit humanizes its calculating criminal anti-hero through sentimental flashbacks to his poverty-stricken youth and a strained relationship with his senile, hospital-bound mother.
The third act cranks up the suspense and even turns a little nasty as Renzo starts bumping off witnesses one by one, torn between desperation and his own nagging conscience. Franco's azure-eyed charisma and Giannetti's humane writing keep him relatively sympathetic even though his actions grow increasingly ruthless, even cruel. Music by Ennio Morricone in jazz-piano mode.