A mobster on the lam turns life coach for an introverted Italian comic book nerd in “The Turning Point (La svolta),” an Italian mob dramedy with a hard, bloody edge.
Riccardo Antonaroli’s film, based on a Roberto Cimpanelli/Gabriele Scarfone script, skips from a heist that goes wrong to a “Three Days of the Condor” situation to — of course — jokes about “Stockholm Syndrome” as our nerd learns a few things about carrying oneself as a “made man” before slamming into a brutal and bullet-riddled finale.
It packs all that, and romance and mob power struggles, into 90 minutes. Not bad.
A 40ish courier/collector makes one of his stops at the Flamingo Bar, only to have his collections backpack snatched by a brash, motorcycle-helmeted interloper who makes his getaway on a scooter.
Ah, but the courier is on a motorcycle and no head start will be enough, even without the wipeout our-nearly-panicked pack-snatcher has in Rome’s old Garbatella neighborhood. He flees on foot, dropping some of the loot as he does.
What can the big brute (Andrea Lattanzi) do but barge in on diminutive Ludovico (Brando Pacitto), a shy aspiring comic book artist who studies economics because that’s what his disappointed and well-off farmer father expects?
The bargain — made at gunpoint — is that Filippo the armed robber will give the cowering shrimp Ludovico a few thousand Euros once he’s able to slip out.
The reality is that the courier mobilized “the boys” to invade the neighborhood, stake out the various old high rises and begin an apartment-by-apartment search to locate the money that Big Boss Caino lost. The seriousness of the situation is underscored when that hapless courier gets a lecture on “fate” before his is primly dispatched by the amoral Bruzzetti (Marcello Fonte). Made Man Spartaco (Max Malatesta) and his partner are sent to round up this brazen thief. Spartaco doesn’t approve of Bruzetti’s methods or the boss’s heartless way of blaming and executing the courier, or of the boss’s ulterior motives.
Laying low makes antsy Filippo chatty, scrambling for something to do. He’s Italian, so naturally he’ll cook. No, first he’ll goad/train his meek hostage to break into a neighbor’s apartment to steal ingredients. He fixes broken and untidy things about the nerd’s apartment.
And that cute coed (Ludovica Martino) whom our hostage can barely make eye contact with, a young woman who can’t free herself of a rich and abusive boyfriend? One busted boyfriend nose later, and it’s problema risolto.
This promising first feature by Antonaroli juggles the lighter side of being a mob hostage — the makeover, the advice to the lovelorn — with the brute force/bullet-to-the-head/knife-in-the-neck methods of Caino (Tullio Sorrentino) and his gang.
Caino’s growled lectures (in Italian with subtitles, or dubbed) on “Do you know what’s the most important thing to a man? His reputation. It doesn’t matter what you are, it’s what people THINK you are” are contrasted with Filippo’s tough love tough talk to cowering Ludovico, who uses”I have a serious illness” to explain his miserable life.
Oh? The teenager’s stocking cap you wear covers your chemo? No?
“‘Depression?’ You hate yourself. You don’t need a degree to see that.”
That sentiment is sure to set off folks who preach that “depression is a serious illness,” but in this script, it has Ludovico facing up to his issues and addressing them thanks to “my guardian angel.” Yeah, it’s glib and formulaic, but it plays.
The acting is quite good, particularly on the mob side, with Fonte oozing menace, Malatesta seething resentment and Sorrentino’s relaxed, murderous air suggesting a hard man untroubled by who and what he has to do or have done to get his “reputation” back.
The leads click just well enough in a serio-comic “bromance” sort of way.
And Antonaroli ensures that the story clips along, never letting us lose the thread or the fact that the stakes are literally life and death, something underscored by the hammer blows of the finale.
Rating: TV-MA, violence, sex, nudity, profanity
Cast: Andrea Lattanzi, Brando Pacitto, Ludovica Martino, Max Malatesta and Marcello Fonte
Credits: Directed by Riccardo Antonaroli, scripted by Roberto Cimpanelli and Gabriele Scarfone. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:30