Caught red-handed for a crime he swears he didn’t commit, the hopeful criminal mastermind and—for now—small-time thief, Cosimo, entrusts the square-jawed boxer, Peppe, with the plan for a seemingly fail-proof pawnshop heist on the quiet Madonna Street.
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The film’s climax is as meticulously staged and almost as long as the legendary half-hour heist sequence in Rififi, but replaces the Frenchmen’s laconic professionalism with the Italians’ noisy ineptitude. The use of arch, silent movie-style intertitles to further the narrative adds to the apparent air of mockery.
What is clear on a revelatory re-viewing [is] an uncompromising creativity that clearly didn’t seek solutions to the problems of story or of filmmaking but rather took up with its hero and subject and went with it, using its allegiance as a fund for inspiration and energy. The filmmaking doesn’t follow the subject: it is one with the subject.
One of the funniest Italian comedies ever made—certainly much funnier than the many imitations and remakes (i.e., rip-offs) it’s spawned over the years. Monicelli’s sense of character is priceless, and his fabulous cast—including Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman, Claudia Cardinale, and Renato Salvatori—makes the most of it.
Wow. What a cast and what a film! Had me in stitches. Can't believe it took me 30 years on this Earth to view. Easily one of the best films I saw this year. Criterion should re-release this on blu ray. 5 easy stars. Must see Italian cinema.
If you are looking for a Postwar Italian film that isn't some depressing tragedy with families hocking their bedsheets and starving fishermen or starving women forced into prostitution, this lightweight and silly comedy is just the ticket! I prefer the tragedies but this is great, too. (There actually is a joke about hocking the bedsheets in this film :-)
"A group of thieves do everything wrong" sounds like a one-joke premise, but Monicelli's way of viewing people and their society is not just hilarious, but rich—jokes come fast with scarcely a dud among them. He also knows the secret of the "screwball crime" subgenre: that we care more about people than we do about property. And he knows that, however silly it gets, that's essentially a political statement.
A real host of stars: Mastroianni, Salvatori, Cardinale, Gassmann and Toto. A couple of really hilarious scenes and one dramatic moment squeezed in a movie which will make you smile during 100 minutes. Some scenes uncannily made me think of the Woody Allen of SMALL TIME CROOKS for instance. Laughter doesn't seem to know any frontier. highly recommended.
Entertaining comic caper from director Mario Monicelli. Sharply-written with a great cast of colorful characters, superb black and white cinematography, and authentic gritty locations - but it's light on real laughs and occasionally gets bogged down in its subplots. Ultimately, only a minor classic.