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  Hornsby e Rodriguez A less than dynamic duo
Year: 1992
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Stars: Charles Napier, Stefano Sabelli, Iris Peynado, David Brandon, Bettina Giovannini, Stelio Candelli, Salvatore Lago, David Warbeck
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Retired F.B.I. agent Brian Hornsby (Charles Napier) travels to an unnamed region of South America to visit an old partner (Italian exploitation movie staple David Warbeck) rumoured to have turned criminal. When Hornsby’s partner is murdered the American is brought in for questioning by Alfonso Rodriguez (Stefano Sabelli) a lowly local traffic cop looking to crack a case big enough to elevate his career. In time-honoured buddy cop film fashion Hornsby and Rodriguez smack each other around then become fast-friends. Aided by well-connected journalist Jimmy Gandelman (David Brandon) the duo discover the killing was orchestrated by the Cobra; a legendary cocaine kingpin that evaded Hornsby's grasp and now operates in the area with his face transformed via plastic surgery.

In its own modest way Hornsby e Rodriguez - Sfida Criminale a.k.a. Mean Tricks marks the end of an era in Italian exploitation film being the final theatrical outing directed by Umberto Lenzi. Fittingly it is a Euro-crime thriller, a genre to which Lenzi's many contributions were held in greater regard than his slapdash, albeit more widely available efforts in the cannibal, zombie and other assorted horror subgenres. Unusually for an Italian production Hornsby e Rodriguez is not all that derivative. Lenzi does not riff on any then recent Hollywood hits and instead treads his own path. Light on action compared to Lenzi's earlier more frenetic classics (e.g. Violent Naples (1976), Rome Armed to the Teeth (1976), etc.) it is practically a character piece. Much of the film simply follows the two detectives as they piece the mystery together through interrogation and deductive reasoning. Even so both the film and Lenzi's direction tread a fine line between methodical and contemplative and simply plodding and dull. What action it has is largely relegated to the third act: brief bursts of sub-Sam Peckinpah slow-mo shootouts miles away from the high-octane action set-pieces showcased in Hollywood blockbusters of the early Nineties.

The script, while miles away from Shane Black, spotlights a nice line in easygoing banter. That said Charles Napier's slightly sad, broken down alcoholic F.B.I. agent is much more engaging than the clownish, semi-cowardly, accident-prone lech wildly overplayed by Stefano Sabelli. Indeed Hornsby finds a more useful ally in the form of Iris Peynado as Candelaria, Rodriguez's bespectacled though conspicuously voluptuous secretary. She not only proves herself capable in a tight spot whilst enduring the usual tiresome level of physical abuse expected of a woman featured in an Italian cop film but proves a rare heroine that gets to sleep with one half of a buddy cop duo then marry the other! In a 'comedy' subplot Rodriguez initially fails to realize Candelaria is (inexplicably) infatuated with him. Yet when he sees her working undercover as a hooker (with enormous hair) he reacts as any man in love would. He calls her a whore and threatens to beat her to death. That smooth talker. Of course Candelaria interprets this nauseating macho display as a sign of true love so maybe she is not that smart after all. If you can make it through this nonsense the third act is more agreeably taut and suspenseful, placing the heroes in real jeopardy and even pulling off a few good gags. Including the unintentionally humorous sight of a drug-addled Napier going postal on an assassin.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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Umberto Lenzi  (1931 - 2017)

Prolific, workmanlike Italian director and writer who dabbled in most genres throughout his 40 year career. Started work as a film critic before making his directing debut in 1961 with the sea-faring adventure flick Queen of the Seas. The two decades years saw Lenzi churn out westerns, historical dramas, Bond-esquespy yarns and giallo thrillers among others.

It was his 1972 proto-cannibal film Deep River Savages that led to the best known phase of his career, with notorious gore-epics Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive and zombie shlocker Nightmare City quickly becoming favourites amongst fans of spaghetti splatter. Continued to plug away in the horror genre before retiring in 1996.

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