The Film (4.5/5)
John Cassavetes was the man! Whether Cassavetes is behind the camera (as director), or in front acting usually the end result is fantastic. He is one of those actors that can be put into a bad movie, and elevate it to a higher standard, as long as he in on screen.
I don’t mean this in a Bruce Campbell in Congo, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn 2 way, where the movie is only entertaining while he’s on screen. Machine Gun McCain is a seriously bad ass crime movie, with one of cinema’s greatest renegades taking the lead
Machine Gun McCain is obviously grounded by an excellent performance by John Cassavetes, however, it also features a great cast including frequent Cassavetes collaborator Peter Falk (A Woman Under the Influence, Husbands), and Cassavete’s wife the as always fantastic Gena Rowlands (Faces, Gloria). It also features a who’s who of European genre veterans from the Wicker Man’s Britt Ekland as McCain’s new main squeeze, Tony Kendall (Bird with the Crystal Plumage), and Florinda Balkan (Lizard in a Woman’s Skin).
Machine Gun McCain is a well-plotted heist story. It stars Cassavetes as Hank McCain, a member of the mob, who is let out of jail after 12 years. This is due to the influence of mob boss Charlie Adamo (Peter Falk), who wants to take control of the new Royal Hotel in Las Vegas. He enlists McCain through his estranged son to commit a $2,000,000 heist on the hotel’s casino.
It starts as a pretty simple plan, however, it quickly becomes complicated as it discovered that the hotel’s owners are actually the heads of the East Coast mafia that Adamo is an underling for. He wants the heist called off but McCain, and his newly eloped wife Irene have a different plan, and are going to carry on the heist no matter what.
Obviously, the plot sounds like something out of a generic crime thriller. However, Machine Gun McCain truly subverts expectations with a really complex plot wrought with twist around every corner. Also, with a title with Machine Gun in it, it is a fairly tame film as far as violence is concerned. Sure, there are a few scenes of machine guns mowing down mobsters, but this is not really central to the story.
Machine Gun McCain is more like a crime drama, then a crime action flick. The director Giuliano Montaldo, handles the material well, keeping the plot flowing seamlessly, and never letting it sink down into a series of mob movie clichés. He also makes the film betray its budgetary roots, with all its exotic locations ranging from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, all the way to New York. Machine Gun McCain is an exciting, extremely well-acted, and cast crime drama, and Blue Underground has done a great service bringing this under seen gem of a film to the eyes and ears of genre fans.
Blue Underground has exceeded all expectations with their A/V work on Machine Gun McCain. The transfer on this obscure Italian crime drama is absolutely fantastic. They have presented with film with a sharp 2:35:1 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is a light bit of film like grain throughout the picture, and the image is quite detailed. Skin tones, and black levels are accurate, and the colors simply pop from the screen. There are a few softer scenes, and a few minor instances of print damage, but nothing that takes away from the quality of the transfer as a whole.
The only audio on this disc is a solid DTS-HD mono track. The dialogue, effects, and music (courtesy of the always amazing Ennio Morricone) are quite audible, and there does not appear to be any background noise, distortion, or hissing on the track. Subtitles are available in French, English, and Spanish.
There are not too many extras on this release of Machine Gun McCain, but the few that are here are a nice complement to the film. The main extra is an interview with director Guiliano Montaldo, who discusses his film career, and most specifically Machine Gun McCain. As a pretty huge Cassavetes fan boy (I own almost all of his directorial works on DVD including the massive Criterion box set), all his stories about working with him are extremely welcome. Aside from that the disc features both the U.S. and International trailers for the film.
Machine Gun McCain is a criminally under seen Italian crime drama. The plot is tight, complex, and always compelling, and it grounded by excellent performances by Cassavetes, Falk, and Ekland. The transfer on the disc is amazing, and the audio is quite sharp as well. The extras provide an excellent complement to the feature, and the interview is short enough to give you a lot of good fun details about the film, but leaves you wanting more.
I would recommend this to fans of John Cassavetes, European genre films, and crime film buffs looking for something they may have passed up on.