You should already know that Lucio Fulci was more than just a director of gory zombie flicks. He also directed gory westerns, gory giallos and gory action movies, like this, The Smuggler, which sadly doesn't seem to attract the attention it deserves.
Cigarette-smuggling gangster Luca DiAngelo (Fabio Testi), a far cry from those inter-continental truck drivers I buy my fags from at work, is out for revenge after rivals ambush and kill his brother Mickey. While he hits dead-end after dead-end trying to find Mickey's killers (and substaining serious injuries for his trouble too), many of the other gangsters around Naples are also being offed in a paricularly gruesome fashion, including Lenny Bennet's twin brother Alfredo, who is blown up by a sabotaged bed during a gang-bang. It seems that some big-time drug-pusher with an exotic taste in aftershave, wants in on the tab-scam, presumably to rake in all the huge bucks that can be made from selling cheap cigs in council-estate pubs. Luca wants nothing to do with him though, saying "NO!" to drugs and mumbling something about kids buying goofballs outside the school gates (you see, death from lung-cancer is much better than a drug overdose because the end comes much more slowly, giving you more time to appreciate what little life you have left). Luca finds himself being double-crossed by his friend and cohort Perlante and escapes death when he sniffs the hitman's aftershave. The wealsely looking Perlante is then shot by his new-found friends... several times, even after he is dead. Luca's wife is consequently kidnapped ( I don't quite know what happens to his annoying kid who is last seen riding a horse on a merry-go-round) and is then, in a scene reminiscent of Fulci's giallo masterpiece The New York Ripper, raped while Luca listens over the telephone. Luca, who is by now quite miffed, goes on a bloody rampage and kills all his enemies in a typically violent manner. In a truly mental twist, his wife is saved by police after the intervention of a strange Mafia don who has spent the rest of the movie doing nothing else but watch westerns on TV.
This flick just oozes Fulci class. Some of the set-pieces are just amazing. In one scene Luca and Mickey walk through a discotheque playing ultra-tacky Europop while strobe-lights flicker and Neopolitan babes dance without panties on (complete with welcome close-ups). In another scene a murder is committed amidst the smoke drifting ominously over the sulphur pits and, in yet another scene Luca stabs a bad-guy on a crazy capsized boat. Plus the fairly complex plot sets The Smuggler apart from most other action flicks by constantly keeping the viewer guessing about what's gonna happen next rather than guessing what Schwartzeneggar's next one-liner's gonna be. The fantastic soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi is a further bonus.
Also there's the archetypical Fulci violence, which is always a plus. We are treated to burns victims, explicit views of bomb casualties, gut-busting and splattered heads. The traitorous little shit Perlante is shot through the neck causing his adam's apple to explode everywhere and, in the movie's most cringeworthy moment, a woman has her face burned off (slowly) with a Bunsen Burner. Yep, The Smuggler is most definitely not for kids.
It's really very hard to find any problems with The Smuggler. Perhaps I could complain a bit about the bonkers ending but to be honest it's really quite endearing, and is sure to cultivate acid flashbacks for years to come. If you are a fan of action flicks, then get this. If you're into gangster flicks, get this. And if you're a Fulci fan.... then you know what to do.
Aka: Luca Il Contrabbandiere, Contraband, The Naples Connection
Italian director whose long career could best be described as patchy, but who was also capable of turning in striking work in the variety of genres he worked in, most notably horror. After working for several years as a screenwriter, he made his debut in 1959 with the comedy The Thieves. Various westerns, musicals and comedies followed, before Fulci courted controversy in his homeland with Beatrice Cenci, a searing attack on the Catholic church.