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‘La Scorta’ (NR)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 02, 1994

In Ricky Tognazzi's lean Italian police drama, "La Scorta," the cops who guard the officials investigating Mafia influence are a breed apart. Facing down death on a daily basis, they're stern-faced and focused, like the kind of men who dismantle explosives and know that one slip can mean disaster.

At the beginning of the film, a judge and his escort are assassinated when the judge's probe reaches too close to the truth, illustrating what can happen when an escort (una scorta in Italian) lets down his guard for only an instant. The murdered judge had been close to blowing the whistle on a local water scam when he was gunned down, and the new investigator, Judge De Francesco (Carlo Cecchi), takes up right where his predecessor left off, shutting off the city's water and creating an unpopular artificial drought.

With one of their own already dead on the job, tensions between the men on the protection detail are running high. Corsale (Enrico Lo Verso) is officially in charge of the team, but he's a family man, and because of his ambitions for a cushier and less dangerous position he double-crosses De Francesco by spying on his investigation for a corrupt superior.

Recently transferred to Sicily to guard the new judge, Mandolesi (Claudio Amendola) is the group's true soul. Squarely built and low to the ground, this terse lawman is an uncomplicated professional, and the movie's spirit finds its best expression in his combination of watchfulness and barely contained rage.

Unfortunately, though, Tognazzi is rather clumsy in keeping the relationships between the characters straight. Working from a script by Graziano Diana and Simona Izzo, Tognazzi is good at capturing the masculine dynamics within the team. But the details are clearer than the larger picture. After Corsale's betrayal, the group tightens its circle around De Francesco, who has also pressed them into service as investigators. But what they're investigating and who the criminals are never really comes clear.

Ennio Morricone's thumping score runs variations on the music he wrote for "The Untouchables," but the soundtrack seems too big for the movie. Ultimately, "La Scorta" is a tight, competent but rather inconsequential thriller. It's diverting, but thin.

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