September 3, 2023

BORSALINO: The Bullet-Ridden Bromance

1970 / 125 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

If nothing else, the 1970 French gangster epic, Borsalino, features the most amusing 'bromantic' meet-cute I’ve ever seen. François Capella (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and Roch Siffredi (Alain Delon) are two low-level criminals who initially clash over a woman, Lola (Catherine Rouvel). They commence beating the hell out of each other, then laugh and shake hands when the fight comes to a draw.

Realizing they’re stronger together, the two become fast friends and partners in crime, while Lola remains cheerfully content to see to their needs (which appears to involve a lot of cooking). At first, they earn the trust of a local gangster by forcing competitors out of the fish-marketing business. But Roch & François have ambitions beyond being enforcers, though a mob lawyer with political ties warns them not to overstep their bounds with other powerful bosses.

But they do that very thing by crossing Poli, one of Marseille’s most powerful kingpins. François courts the man’s young girlfriend, with dire consequences. Meanwhile, Roch orchestrates an attack on Poli’s meat-market business. And as they grow more powerful, so does their list of enemies, both criminal and political.

"Why yes...we are dressed to kill."
Despite the subplots and conflicts with a large variety of characters, Borsalino isn’t a particularly complex film. The relationship and bond between Roch & François is what ultimately drives the narrative. Though unrepentant criminals, we genuinely like these guys, even when torching local nightclubs, fixing boxing matches or sabotaging local businesses. Not quite two peas in a pod, François is the more laid-back and congenial of the two, while Roch is more intense and angry. But that dichotomy is part of what makes them interesting, and in a way, their relationship isn’t too far removed from the one in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Borsalino is stylish, quick-paced and boasts enjoyable performances by the two leads. The jangling piano score by French jazz legend Claude Bolling is repetitive and grating, but doesn’t seriously detract from the fun of watching these guys' rise to power. A big hit in Europe, this bullet-ridden bromance remains comparatively obscure on this side of the pond, but for fans of mob movies, it’s worth checking out.


NOTE: Free Kittens Movie Guide was provided with a promo disc for review purposes. Physical supplemental material included with the final product (booklets, artwork, inserts, etc) were not available for review.

FEATURETTES - Dressing Down (interview with Elizabeth Costalo, who discusses the film’s costume design); The Music of Borsalino (composer/historian Neil Brand discusses the film’s score); Le Magnifique Belmondo (a gushing archival look at co-star Jean-Paul Belmondo’s career).

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By historian Josh Nelson.



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