Blu-ray Review: Violent City (a.k.a. The Family) [Kino Lorber] | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, May 26th, 2024  

Violent City (a.k.a. The Family)

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Jun 16, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

One of the world’s deadliest hitmen, Jeff Heston (Charles Bronson), is betrayed and left for dead by an old colleague—his high-class girlfriend Vanessa (Jill Ireland) seemingly in on the crooked deal. He survives the hit, and on release from prison embarks on a mission for vengeance against everyone he believes double-crossed him. The only thing standing in the way of his normally swift and deadly justice are his lingering feelings for the girl who may or may not have sold him out to his enemies, and mounting evidence that someone unknown is building a case for blackmail against him.

Violent City (1970) was released at an interesting juncture in Charles Bronson’s career. Although twenty years into his acting career, Death Wish (1974) had not yet made him into a bankable star at the U.S. box office. Abroad, however, Bronson’s career was much stronger: a string of European action films following his turn in Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) had steadily built up his popularity throughout countries like France, Italy, and Spain. By the time it saw wide release in the United States in a truncated version re-dubbed The Family in 1973, Bronson still wasn’t quite a household name domestically; but soon, both he and the actor playing his antagonist, Telly Savalas, would be bigger stars in the U.S. thanks to Death Wish and the launch of Kojak (1973-1978), respectively.

In either form, Violent City is a cracking thriller—opening with a nerve-wracking car chase and featuring no shortage of additional foot chases and shoot-outs. (One particularly memorable sequence involves Bronson setting up to snuff out a racecar driver, mid-race.) The movie has an unmistakably Italian flair thanks to veteran director Sergio Sollima, the kinetic cinematography of Aldo Tonti, and Ennio Morricone’s score. Although scenes were also shot in Rome, San Francisco, Michigan, and the Virgin Islands, the movie makes great use of its largely New Orleans setting. Savalas’ crooked billionaire is especially memorable, as he manages to make the character quite charismatic in spite of being such an unashamed slimeball.

Kino Lorber’s new release of Violent City includes three different cuts of the movie to choose from: both of the original English and Italian versions, as well as a 2K scan of the trimmed re-release version. The new commentary track on this release comes from action scholar Paul Talbot, who should hopefully continue working his way through the rest of Bronson’s filmography with these informative tracks; since this film just precedes the period covered in his indispensable Bronson’s Loose Again book, his insight is especially welcome here. We also get a nice on-camera chat with the director, Sollima, who passed away in 2015, ported over from a previous disc release, and several trailers and TV spots for this and other Bronson films. Among all of the reissued Bronson films to come from Kino Lorber in the last year, this is my second-favorite next to Mr. Majestyk (1974) – and comes highly recommended for both the film(s) and the extra features. The stylish ending of Violent City alone – we’ll say no more, as not to spoil things – is worth the price of admission.


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