From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
As the cool opening credits play (set to Ennio Morricone's title theme), we are introduced to Jeff (Charles Bronson), who is a hitman for an American based criminal organization. He is currently on a nice vacation in St. Martin, Virgin Islands with his lover, Vanessa (Jill Ireland). Their wonderful time is quickly ruined when, while out for a drive, Jeff notices that he is being followed by another car. Pretty soon, there is a really exciting car chase sequence through the tiny streets of the villages of St. Martin. You'll notice that director Sergio Sollima used a lot of rear projection shots in these scenes (shot in Cinecitta Studios, Rome). Jeff is a good driver and is able to lose the tail, but when he reaches a small village, he is cornered. He then is surprised to see his old friend, Coogan pull up and he calls out to him. Coogan shoots Jeff point blank. As the other thugs walk over to finish the hit, they notice that Jeff has disappeared. But no, he's still alive! Jeff rolls out from under the car and shoots all the men, but he's too injured to get away and passes out.
He wakes up in a hospital and after he's healed, thrown into jail. When Jeff is released, he is ready to get some payback (what else?). His first target is the man who betrayed him: Coogan, who, we learn, is a professional Formula One racer. Jeff's plan is to hide in the adjacent hills overlooking the racetrack and shoot out Coogan's tires causing him to crash. It all goes perfect...or so he thinks.
Jeff is still in love with Vanessa, and tracks her down in New Orleans, but when he sees that she is happy without him, he is angered. He turns and leaves, but Vanessa hops in his car and tries to explain why she deserted him. We get an understanding throughout the film that Vanessa is a true gold digger that only wants power and money. Jeff and Vanessa go to leave New Orleans, but he is stopped in his tracks when he receives some photos of himsef taken while he was shooting Coogan's tires. Now he knows he can't leave until he finds out who's behind it.
Jeff does some investigating and tracks down the guy he thinks took the photos. It turns out that the man behind this bit of blackmail is his old boss, Weber (Telly Savalas). Weber is a fast talking, smooth operator. He tells Jeff he wants him to work in the business again and offers him a nice position in the firm. Jeff relents and tells Weber he's finished with the crime biz. Jeff notices a woman swimming in Weber's pool, as she gets out we see its good ol' Vanessa. Jeff is shocked, but does his best to cover his emotions. He and Vanessa begin another affair under Weber's nose, but we learn that Weber knows what Vanessa really is about, the only one who doesn't believe her true intentions is Jeff. The cold blooded hitman has fallen for the wrong girl...
Violent City is not a fast paced crime film, which is sort of disappointing. There's a lot of talking and a lot of drawn out sequences that don't really enhance the film's quality. The only real action is in the opening car chase and a short foot chase that takes place in New Orleans. Another aspect that hurts the film is the acting. Usually Charles Bronson is great as the cool, silent type, but in this film he just came off like he didn't care about the role very much. Even the great Telly Savalas ("Who Loves Ya Baby?") is underused.
Sergio Sollima has made some fantastic spaghetti westerns, but this foray into the crime genre didn't work out very well. I was expecting a crackerjack classic, but I didn't get one. The best thing about it is definitely the score by Ennio Morricone, who, as always, made a memorable, iconic piece for the movie.
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. He is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life.