Young, Violent, Dangerous opens with on a warning. Lea (Eleonora Giorgi, of Dario Argento’s Inferno), worried for her rather weak boyfriend, wants the police commissioner (Italian crime movie stalwart Tomas Milian, in cool seventies badass mode) to stop these otherwise “good boys” from embarking in an impulsive gas station robbery. Cut to three smiling, fun-loving young men romping with if anything overly boyish energy through the city center piazza of Milan like little kids, playing tag to a jaunty score like harmless pranksters on the way to a practical joke. The commissioner is dubious but posts men at the gas station to wait for these misguided guys with fake guns. Except the guns are not fake and these harmless boys explode in a fury of gunfire that leaves four dead and sparks a spree of robbery and murder. It turns out that while Lea thought she was simply reporting a potential petty crime, the real warning was about the dangerous instability of Italy’s youth on the verge of exploding. Or so one would surmise from the film.
Young, Violent, Dangerous is scripted by Fernando Di Leo, who directed some of the most interesting Italian gangster films of the seventies, but it’s no gangster movie. The trio of young men are neither thugs nor political activist. They are educated and affluent, from respectable families with money and status, but something snaps with the first gunshot that sends them on a thrill kill crime spree, targeting everyone from cops and bankers to student revolutionaries and mobsters. It’s like a distinctly seventies vision of post-sixties protest gone sour. Their actions are neither political statement nor social protest, and the money means nothing to them; they literally toss it out the window in their getaway, a sign of their disdain for such crude matters as money. It’s like fantasy game of cops and robbers with live rounds, motivated by nothing but the rush of power and violence and undirected rebellion.
Mario (Stefano Patrizi), who goes by Blondie, looks like an easy-going fellow but reveals himself as the manipulative alpha member of the trio, cheerleading one partner on to match his mayhem and shaming the other into sticking with them despite his better judgment. The fact that entire Milan police force is on their trail only adds to the thrill of the chase, and Blondie’s bloodlust doesn’t differentiate between cop, ally or bystander. To the film’s credit, he doesn’t spout any Nietzschean line of philosophical justification. If anything, he’s a closet sociopath suddenly set free, and as things heat up, he reveals underlying misogyny (in the presence of naked and willing young women, he gets his kicks tying up and lashing one of the girls) and homophobia (as evidenced by sneering comments).