La vie della droga
The Heroin Busters was director Enzo G. Castellari’s fourth poliziotteschi flick after High Crime (1973), Street Law (1974), and The Big Racket (1976). By now Castellari was as firmly associated with adrenaline pumping contemporary set thrillers as he was with the dust and bloodshed of the Euro-western. The difference between his westerns and poliziotteschi efforts was purely cosmetic. All of these films follow the narrative structures of the western and The Heroin Busters is no exception. This particular title has a reputation for being the weak link in Castellari’s 1970’s poliziotteschi quartet, but I find it to be the most entertaining and enjoyable. It has a certain hyper-stylised excessiveness that is lacking in the other three, and whilst this might be used as a criticism by some, I find the absurdity of The Heroin Busters to be one of its charms. It has a certain operatic ebullience that distances it from the gritty aesthetics of High Crime and lacks the hard edged cynicism and despair of Street Law and The Big Racket. In short this film is a lot of fun, and it is clear the filmmakers had a lot of fun putting it together.
The screenplay by Massimo De Rita and Galliano Juso adopts a mellower tone than one normally expects in these type of films. The authorities are not the subject of a scathing attack, nor does the film attempt to develop a political critique. Instead the screenplay saves up all of its vitriol for those dealing in large quantities of narcotics. The film opens with Castellari’s regular strategy of establishing the gist of the plot with a montage. The montage that opens The Heroin Busters is easily the most ambitious yet mounted by Castellari. We get to witness the global nature of a drug cartel that operates out of New York and has subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Colombia, Amsterdam and finally Italy. Some excellent location shooting brings these exotic climes to life and shows the extent of the task that faces Interpol in breaking such a web of criminality. The representative of Interpol is the plain talking and tetchy Mike Hamilton (David Hemmings) whose irritability is often tested by the bungling dolts he is forced to work with. The task force he heads up is initially unsuccessful when an attempted sting at a hotel ends in frustration and failure.
© Shaun Anderson 2011