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ROME 2022

Review: Robbing Mussolini


- Despite technical decency and a promising basic concept, Renato De Maria’s new film is chaotic and unenjoyable

Review: Robbing Mussolini
Luigi Fedele, Alberto Astorri, Marcello Macchia, Pietro Castellitto, Coco Rebecca Edogamhe and Tommaso Ragno in Robbing Mussolini

Perhaps one of the most hotly anticipated titles in this year’s edition of Rome Film Fest, Robbing Mussolini [+see also:
film profile
by Renato De Maria might prove to be a bitter disappointment for many viewers. Presented in the Grand Public section and scheduled to drop on Netflix on 26 October, the film is the product of a fairly interesting idea.

It’s 1945, we’re in Milan and the war is about to end. A thief active on the black market who goes by the name of “Isola” (Pietro Castellitto), and his girlfriend, a cabaret singer called Yvonne (Matilde De Angelis), find themselves planning the theft of Benito Mussolini’s legendary treasure, which the Duke has hidden in the city’s so-called “Black Zone”. After the raid, they plan to escape to Switzerland with their haul. Helped by loyal Marcello (Tommaso Ragno), they gather together an impossible crew of associates in order to carry out the raid: most noteworthy among them is an anarchist nicknamed Molotov (Alberto Astorri), Mille Miglia race car driving champion Giovanni Fabbri (a wasted Marcello Macchia, better known as Maccio Capatonda) and an improbable character named Hessa (Coco Rebecca Edogamhe, who’s totally miscast here). The fascist antagonists are all reduced to caricatures, especially the party official Borsalino (Filippo Timi) and his wife: the film diva with a glorious past Nora Cavalieri (Isabella Ferrari).

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It has to be said that the acting performances, which are all sadly below par, are heavily constricted by weak writing when it comes to character construction, and superficial when exploring conflict, while the film’s narrative subplots are disappointingly predictable.

The musical and aesthetic mishmash in the film doesn’t improve the overall outcome either. The soundtrack curated by David Holmes, for example, features anachronistic choices such as Se bruciasse la città by Massimo Ranieri, Amandoti by Gianna Nannini, and Tutto nero by Caterina Caselli, several of which are either extra-diegetic, or diegetic when sung by Yvonne. At various points - when the group’s accomplices are introduced, for example, or when they’re talking about phases within the plan - the film indulges in animated sequences, illogically transporting us towards another type of work which is arguably closer to the cinecomic form.

Countless other details fail to make sense, notably the dynamics in various “messy” action scenes. Some of these are too forced to accept, even when trying our best to suspend disbelief. One example worth mentioning in this respect is Molotov’s far-fetched liberation. In this particular scene, which unfolds in broad daylight, Hessa, a black partisan in men’s clothing, manages to steal the keys to free Molotov from the pocket of a Black Shirt as she walks past him. She does so as the guard is marching right alongside his platoon, and nobody notices a thing. Hessa manages to pass the keys to Isola, who’s disguised as a monk, who manages to pass them on to Molotov before his hanging sentence is carried out. All of them subsequently manage to escape thanks to Fabbri, who, at the wheel of a pick-up truck, kicks up an absurd quantity of dust, spinning the vehicle full circle and creating confusion between enemy lines.

What else can we say? It’s another missed opportunity. Better curation of writing and stylistic cohesion would have sufficed to improve the overall result considerably.

Robbing Mussolini is a Bibi Film TV production.

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(Translated from Italian)

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