Love, Under the Gun

Director Andrea Di Stefano’s taut action thriller starring Pierfrancesco Favino is stylishly set in Milano and harkens to the Italian-Crime Thrillers of the 70s, a decade whose genre films were commonly referred to as “Polizieschi”. Think Italian crimesploitation movies, heavily influenced by American films like Bullit, Mean Streets or Death Wish, to name a few.

While “Last Night of Amore” is less derivative then its predecessors, Di Stefano’s use of 35MM evokes the grittier tradition of Italian cinema – pronounced more so by a lack of modern handheld 360 cams, drones and CGI. While screening the film at Berlin last year, the Director confirmed his “very Italian” approach to filmmaking, despite his first two films being English and Spanish language productions. “Last Night of Amore” is in fact Di Stefano’s debut Italian production. But the Italian influence, as he affirms, can be traced to his acting career, having performed for Auteurs like Marco Bellochio in “Il Principe di Homburg”, Dario Argento in “Il Fantasma Dell’Opera” and more recently for Ferzan Ozpetek in “Cuore Sacro”.

The film’s title is a play on the Protagonist’s name – Franco Amore – and while audiences might mistakenly expect a story steeped in Romance, there is a love plot at the core of this Heist film. Respected Police Lieutenant Franco Amore is on the brink of retiring, but not before cashing in on a side job working security for a known Criminal. When the heist goes sideways, Franco’s entire life derails and what follows makes for a thrilling crime story. When asked about playing a somewhat morally ambiguous character Favino had this to say: “When you’re trying to survive you use all the fuel you have. You might think you’re a peaceful man but all of the sudden when someone puts a gun in your face…[you might surprise yourself]”. Here, Favino perfectly describes the story’s central or moral quandary. Characters in “Last Night of Amore” must make split-second decisions with everything on the line, and some more than others rise to the occasion.

Di Stefano’s crime thriller impresses for reasons obvious to the average moviegoer: it’s intense, shot well, and ultimately entertaining – not to mention Linda Caridi’s strong turn as a steely wife and Favino’s silky performance as a cop on the edge of complete annihilation. Beyond all this, “Last Night of Amore” reaffirms that Italian filmmakers can tell their own stories with International appeal, on their own terms and in their own backyard. There’s little to differentiate between this film and some of [American Filmmaker] Michael Mann’s best work, for instance. It’s smart and elegantly made with more than enough originality to stand out from the field. Pierfrancesco Favino speaking on the broader topic of Italian Cinema says, “I am very proud of my Italianness and I believe we can make cinema on such a scale by speaking our language with our own money. What I find not new, but rediscovered in this story and beautiful ambition of Andrea Di Stefano…is to give us back the possibility of participating in this arena”. That is, larger scale action movies common in American Cinema. And on the evidence of this film, I’m inclined to agree.

Where to watch Last Night of Amore: Apple TV, Available to own on DVD

Massimo Volpe is a filmmaker and freelance writer from Toronto: he writes reviews of Italian films/content on Netflix