Noirvember 2020, Episode 29: Four Ways Out (La città si difende, 1951)
Four Ways Out (1951)
Directed by Pietro Germi
Produced by Carlo Civallero (uncredited)
Screenplay by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Pietro Germi, Guiseppe Mangione
Story by Federico Felllini, Tullio Pinelli, Luigi Comencini
Cinematography by Carlo Montouri
Edited by Rolando Benedetti
Music by Carlo Civallero
Società Italiana Cines
Distributed by Variety Film
(1:14) Noir City International, AFI Silver, streaming
Inspired by The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Four Ways Out (1951) is a heist film that shatters the heist mold by placing its crime at the beginning of the film rather than the middle or the end. Seems a little risky… So how successful is the film (to say nothing of the heist)?
A car soars down a road at night while the opening credits roll. It’s not until the end of the film that we realize this opening creates a flashback to everything leading to this point, which starts with four men robbing the ticket office of a local stadium during a soccer match. Making their getaway with the cops on their heels, the men realize they must split up with no time to divvy up the money. Each of the men takes a different way out while trying to avoid capture.
Yet their capture isn’t imminent, at least for awhile. These guys aren’t professional criminals, so they don’t have records, making them tough to capture. But that also means they don’t think like professionals. So who are these guys?
Guido (Paul Muller) is one of the guys who made off with a suitcase filled with money. With a semi-circular crop of curly hair, Guido looks like a professor, and in fact, that what everyone calls him: he’s an artist reduced to drawing caricatures for quick money.
Alberto (Enzo Maggio Jr.) is just a kid, but he has half of the gang’s money. Luigi (Fausto Tozzi) is a simple man seeking a better life for his wife (Cosetta Greco) and young daughter. All of these guys are poor, longing for something that will give them hope, but Paolo (Renato Baldini) is different.
A former soccer star, Paolo's recognizable, which could lead to problems. He hopes his lover Daniela (Gina Lollobrigida, in an early role) will hide him, but she has plans of her own.
Four Ways Out is part character study, part heist film, part Italian neorealism. It succeeds in all three areas and serves as another interesting chapter in the career of director Pietro Germi, an Italian actor, screenwriter, and director. (He played the central character in The Facts of Murder.) His is a career I hope to explore further in the coming years.