Ruggero Deodato’s poliziotteschi picture Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man (1976) was a big hit when it was first released and solidified Deodato’s comeback in the cinema. As is the case with so many poliziotteschi films, Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man trades in spectacles of violence as it follows the story of two rogue cops out to take down a mafioso. However, it’s the degree of sex and violence in Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man that is the only typical aspect of the film.
Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man was penned by veteran poliziotteschi writer and director Fernando Di Leo who seems eager to interject something atypical into a genre that he was so instrumental in defining. Di Leo brings a queer aspect to the genre in how he’s written the relationship between special forces officers Fred (Marc Porel) and Tony (Ray Lovelock). Not only are they partners in vigilante justice, but they live together, seduce women together, and ride around on a motorcycle together. Their bisexual relationship is constantly implied visually and in the dialogue yet it is never specifically articulated. Di Leo and Deodato seem invested in the notion that Fred and Tony’s acts of violence serve as a catharsis for their unspoken homoerotic desires for one another.
Fernando Di Leo’s scripts often feature or suggest an unorthodox sexual relationship with psychosexual elements. Di Leo’s infamous shocker To Be Twenty (1978) takes the latter approach to an extreme degree but there are elements between that film and Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man that are pretty obvious. Consider the recurring motif in both films that a pair is formed of two same gendered individuals who, to those outside the unit of the duo, are literally interchangeable.
Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man, with all of the philosophizing aside, gets by on the momentum Ruggero Deodato brings in his direction. As complex as the relationships that Di Leo has written may be, the picture is still a poliziotteschi and it is Deodato that ensures that the film delivers. The motorcycle chase scene that begins with a savage purse snatching is one of the great chase sequences in cinema. Deodato cuts the sequence to highlight small details, throwing the violence right up front and center. He takes a similar approach to staging the hostage sequence, though now the emphasis is on the potential for violence rather than images of violence themselves.
Poliziotteschi films, as with any niche exploitation genre, is predominantly made up of mediocre films. Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man is far above the norm and would make an ideal introduction to these types of films. The Raro home video release has a decent “making of” documentary that will also help one calibrate one’s self to the genre.