Typically for a mid-Seventies Italian poliziotteschi thriller, Cop in Blue Jeans kicks off with a montage of the crime-ridden state-of-society at the time. Hooligans run rampant. Tourists are robbed. Cars stolen. Handbags snatched. Women’s bottoms are pinched. Scruffy special agent Nico Giraldi (Tomas Milian), a motorbike-straddling maverick cop whose unkempt appearance belies his crime-busting credentials, battles two purse-snatchers, trashing a street market as he kicks their asses. Giraldi and his squad are after the Baron (Guido Mannari), the leader of a notorious ring of thieves. Their latest outrage sees them invade the home of chic literary agent Signora Cattini (Maria Rosaria Omaggio), whom they strip down to her bra and panties then slap silly before absconding with her jewels. Giraldi handles the investigation whilst romancing Signora Cattini on the side. In the meantime the Baron gets in over his head when his men steal a briefcase full of money from American businessman Norman Shelley (Jack Palance), who it turns out is head of an international crime syndicate.
Cop in Blue Jeans or Squadra Antiscippo as it was known in Italy was the second film in the hugely popular Squadra series featuring Cuban-American star Tomas Milian as street hoodlum-turned-supercop Nico Giraldi, who may lift his sartorial style from Serpico (1973) but practices a two-fisted brand of vigilante justice more in common with fellow poliziotteschi icon Maurizio Merli. The series begun under crime thriller specialist Stelvio Massi with Emergency Squad (1974) and ran through a remarkable nine sequels culminating in Cop in Drag (1984), a more broadly farcical parody of Cruising (1980) wherein Nico Giraldi goes undercover at a gay club to investigate the killing of a transvestite singer. Only the first two films were released outside of Italy with the second widely considered among the highpoints of a watershed year for Italian cop thrillers, alongside Violent Naples, Blazing Magnum and Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man.
What all these films have in common are a killer combination of spectacular action and social outrage, but with Cop in Blue Jeans writer-director Bruno Corbucci stirs knockabout humour into the mix. This results in a somewhat uneven tone as the film features uncompromising violence alongside slapstick silliness and gratuitous disco dancing scenes. However, its sociopolitical satire proves more persuasive than the sloganeering commonly found in the crime films of Umberto Lenzi. Partly because Giraldi is a hoodlum gone straight who genuinely empathizes with the downtrodden poor, though not to the point where he can excuse reckless criminality. Nevertheless, while Giraldi will punch out a mugger he sees no point in jailing a desperate youth when there are bigger, more malignant fish to fry like Shelley. During a rooftop chase, Giraldi even tries vainly to save the life of an antagonist. He may look like a ruffian but he is a humane cop.
Bruno Corbucci, younger brother of the more famous Sergio Corbucci, was a prolific filmmaker with fifty films to his name as director and almost three times as many in his long career as a screenwriter. After his directorial debut with the Eurospy spoof Operation: Goldsinger (1965), Corbucci took the usual Italian exploitation route cranking out films in whichever genre was big at the moment. Comedies and action-comedies were his forte, with the prehistoric sex romp When Men Carried Clubs and Women Played Ding Dong (1971) and the Terence Hill and Bud Spencer vehicle Miami Super Cops (1985) among his international successes, though his best film was arguably sexy swashbuckler Isabelle duchesse di diavoli (1969) a.k.a. Ms. Stilleto, based on a racy fumetti series.
The script addresses mass unemployment and failed welfare programs as root causes of the widespread malaise. There is a sense of heartfelt outrage when Giraldi casually admits to Signora Cattini he wears his woolly hat and socks in bed because he worries his landlord will turn off the heating when he falls asleep, or when Palance’s crime boss remarks: “Rome is so full of dead bodies now they don’t even make the papers.” However, as with many Italian cop films, nationalistic pride blunts some aspects of its sociopolitical satire. The film exhibits affection for old fashioned Italian rogues and shifts the blame onto a fanciful American boogeyman whom Giraldi, as the embodiment of righteous anger, symbolically knees in the nuts.
Playing well off Palance’s shark-like menace, despite sharing too few scenes together, Milian gives a wry and charismatic performance. Even so the scene where, to maintain his cover, Giraldi repeatedly slaps his girlfriend is wholly objectionable. Signora Cattini shrugs this off the next day, but viewers will likely not be so forgiving. Try and work out what is going on with the whole antique book smuggling subplot towards the end. It comes completely out of left-field. Music by the ubiquitous Guido and Maurizio De Angelis.
Italian director who worked in most genres over a forty year career, Corbucci is best known for the Nico Giraldi series of police thrillers, starring Tomas Milian and starting with 1976's Cop in Blue Jeans. Also wrote or co-wrote over 120 films, the most notable of which was Django, directed by his brother Sergio Corbucci.