How do you review this? A film shot in 1976 but not released until 2010, when editor Bob Murawski assembled the rediscovered footage. A film laden with casual racism but also featuring a very-of-the-moment soliloquy bemoaning the Catholic Church’s culpability in turning a blind-eye to the world’s problems. A film written and directed by a nightclub crooner, yet shot on-location in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, and Rome. Bear with me.
Duke Mitchell plays Paul, a Los Angeles hood out on parole. The mob recruits him to execute several hits. He takes the job to fund retirement for himself and his prison buddies Peter, John, Luke, and “The Old Man”. This despite Paul’s wealthy former flame eager to rekindle their romance. Paul insists on fending for himself.
The hits go well and Paul and friends skip town on his girlfriend’s yacht. They sail through the Panama canal and head for Rome. There, Paul concocts an ambitious scheme. The group will kidnap the Pope and hold him for ransom. Says Paul, “I want a dollar from every Catholic in the world.”
The group pull off the kidnapping, having The Old Man sub for the Pope, leaving Paul, Peter, Luke, and John on the yacht off the Italian coast with the pontiff. Get the symbolism? This sets up the film’s strongest segments, with Lorenzo Dardado playing a convincing Pope and winning over Paul’s crew, leading to Paul’s aforementioned soliloquy condemning the Catholic Church.
So I am at a loss. The plot meanders. It runs eighty-three minutes but feels like two hours. And yet, the sense of earnest, unfiltered ambition held me riveted. The location photography belies the shoe-string budget. Mitchell, while no great thespian, resonates as a tired hood looking for one last big score. It’s close to good, but too uneven to cross the threshold. That said, I’m eager to give Mitchell’s other film, Massacre, Mafia Style, a look.