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‘The Tough Ones’ on Blu-ray Finds the Beauty in Brutality

A stunning new Blu-ray release for a movie about the ugliness of violence and indifference.
The Tough Ones
By  · Published on July 13th, 2019

Grindhouse Releasing is far from prolific — while some genre labels release five titles a month these folks release maybe one or two per year. It makes the wait a bit easier, though, knowing that they put a ton of care into these infrequent releases making for some truly special Blu-rays. They’re latest is Umberto Lenzi‘s 1976 crime thriller The Tough Ones about a Dirty Harry-like cop who’s grown tired of increasingly vile bad guys and a justice system that’s gone too far up its own ass.

Inspector Leonardo Tanzi (Maurizio Merli) is a bad-ass detective intent on one thing: stopping criminals in their tracks. He has his work cut out for him these days too as Rome has become a haven for crooks, rapists, murderers, and more, and the system seems incapable of keeping them in check. Tanzi’s latest case leads him into some high profile clashes, and it’s not long before an attempt is made to mute his particular talents. Good luck with that police commissioner… Tanzi can’t help but wade into trouble, and while lots of villains are lining up for his attention one in particular jumps the queue — a machine gun-toting hunchback (Tomas Milian) with a taste for blood and bullets.

The Tough Ones (aka Rome, Armed to the Teeth) probably falls under the poliziotteschi sub-genre — action/crime movies from the 60s and 70s prone to gritty violence, sleaze, and politically charged atmospheres — but while a commentary on Italy’s socio-political troubles is found here it feels almost like an after thought. That’s not a criticism either as the introduction of those concerns here work to boost what becomes the film’s main focus. Tanzi is a tough cop, and the rising tide of bullshit is only making him angrier.

He starts the film on the trail of a big bad, but as the minutes and days tick by he’s quickly distracted by the brazen foulness of everyday crooks and a youth seemingly indifferent to compassion and consequence. Tanzi shows them none of the former and plenty of the latter, and it’s almost as if Lenzi was letting the story and the cop riff and improvise along the way. He’s not, obviously, but the script’s loose feel is unusual and a great fit for a character like Tanzi. His journeys from point A to B are repeatedly interrupted by new crimes, new criminals, and new beat-downs, and all of it is to the audience’s benefit. Lenzi shoots some crazy great car chases, and the fight scenes are wonderfully chaotic.

Merli offers a casually stiff tough guy performance — he also does most (all?) of his own fight scenes and stunts — but it’s Milian who steals the focus whenever he’s on the screen. His hunchback is an angry, crazy, and frequently violent thug, but he’s also undeniably charismatic as a villain.

The Tough Ones BluGrindhouse Releasing’ new Blu-ray offers up a gorgeous 4K restoration of the uncensored director’s cut of the film, and it looks vibrant as hell. Color and clarity both pop making for a fantastic watch, and Franco Micalizzi’s jazzy score sets a terrific tone for the action. The package includes the remastered soundtrack on CD, a booklet, trailers, a still gallery, and more. And by more I, of course, mean a bullet pen — yes, a pen in the form of a bullet. This is the kind of content I crave.

Buy The Tough Ones on beautiful new Blu-ray from Amazon.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.