Young, Violent, Dangerous is an interesting film phenomenon. For those familiar with writer Fernando Di Leo, the story may seem familiar. In this one, he’s got it all: young men with a penchant for self-destruction, senseless violence, and of course, the obligatory examination of the female anatomy. Even those who may not know Di Leo have more than likely seen this type of movie before. But Young, Violent, Dangerous, although steeped in genre conventions, manages to rise above the exploitation. It stands on its own, as a testament to film history rather than a shallow good time. That’s because, after watching it, it occurred to me that Young, Violent, Dangerous really works as two movies rather than one.
On the surface, it’s a nihilistic tale of when good boys go bad. But it’s more than a morality tale. It’s a good time. It’s got plenty of gratuitous shoot-em-up style violence, in the same vein as a spaghetti western but with a more modern sensibility. If violence isn’t your thing, well you might as well stop reading here… but the film is abound with seemingly endless car chases and the kind of exploitative tension that makes Di Leo so good at what he does. It’s full of the things one expects from an action movie, but without ever feeling clichéd or tired. The movie is well-aware that it’s full of schlock-y goodness and if you go in with those sorts of expectations, Young, Violent, Dangerous is sure to please.
However, I hesitate to characterize the film as just exploitation. Sure, that’s half of its charm, but Di Leo makes no secret of his ulterior motives. Beneath the face value of seemingly senseless violence beats the heart of a stirring social commentary. Although the film focuses primarily on its three villains, the local police commissioner delivers some much needed food for thought. While it’s easy to get caught up in the bloodspray and bare breasts, the Commissario reminds the audience that these young men weren’t born with the capacity for wrongdoing. The film wavers on its explanations for why it is these villains do what they do, but most importantly, it questions the audience: who is responsible for the modern day murderers and robbers? Furthermore, Young, Violent, Dangerous questions the social constructs of the economic system, traditional understandings of masculinity, and the proliferation of violence. While it manages to do all this in its 96-minute running time, it asks questions that will leave viewers wondering well beyond its end credits.
Young, Violent, Dangerous is a very special kind of film: one that is purposeful masquerading as pulp. As a relic of 1970s Italian exploitation, it’s a thrill ride chock full of blood and baddies. More than that, it’s an important social commentary. Whatever your reasons for watching it are, whether you’re a casual action fan or a serious film enthusiast, I assure you that this film will deliver plenty of pleasure.