In the sweltering Sicilian summer, a hit goes down. In a salvo of shots, Salvo routs the men who want his bosses head.
Salvo, the titular bodyguard, has dropped four opponents before the opening scene is out, but don’t assume that what follows is a study in familiar blood-soaked gangster tropes.
In fact Salvo, from first-time director team Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza, joins a small list of existentialist screen gangsters — the explosive start belies the brooding nature of this stately study of Mafioso mores.
Channeling Tony Soprano‘s meditative moments, The Limey‘s take on relationships or even the gnomic musings of Ghost Dog, Salvo (a brooding Saleh Bakri) has a Damascene moment when a revenge mission brings him face to face with his victim’s blind sister Rita (Sara Serraiocco).
Salvo spares Rita her brother’s fate, and bundles her off to a safe house. His motives are unclear, as indeed is the anger of the Boss (Mario Pupella) when he finds out.
But as stated, Salvo isn’t your typical gangsterism. What motivates is not the point. The blind girl opens Salvo’s eyes and causes him to slowly question everything he does and has done.
Slowly is a key word here. The pace may be too sedate for some, and there are long periods of dialogue-light scenes ill lit by moonlight. There’s also a scientifically-unsound twist that adds immeasurably to the film but that may be a leap too far for anyone wishing the natural realism captured by the cinematography be extended to the plot.
Directors Grassadonia and Piazza permit no easy story arc, no comfortable good-guys-and-bad-guys mood. Tangential, noir-ish and surreal, Salvo is an uneasy and occasionally frustrating hour and a half.