SALVO is an Italian mobster movie, but not quite like we’ve seen before. Our titular hitman is strong and silent in the extreme, the embodiment of an enigma. In the opening scene where he is dispatching his would-be murderers, we don’t even see his whole face. Going to the house of the man who ordered the hit, Salvo instead finds Rita, the man’s blind sister. Unable to kill her as instructed, he kidnaps her – and begins something of a personal transformation.
This is a highly stylised film evocative of the noir genre. There’s lots of light and lots of dark, in part to reflect Rita’s blindness, and in part as a pathetic fallacy – outside there’s too much heat, from the sun and from fellow criminals, so it’s more comfortable to stay inside in the dark. The film as a whole feels out of time and is difficult to place temporally. Everything is dusty, the cars and clothes bleached out and aged, creating an overall aesthetic reminiscent of a western, complete with an atmosphere of lawlessness and a love on the run.
The lovers’ relationship is one of Stockholm Syndrome that works both ways: Rita needs Salvo in practical ways, for food, shelter and safety, but he finds a kind of intimacy and humanity in her that he had been lacking.
Salvo seems like a man who no longer wants the life he has made for himself. But he knows how it will all end, and so grasps at some kind of salvation, attempting to perform one good deed before making his point.
SALVO is not driven by plot but by swish stylistic pulses. In this respect it is reminiscent of DRIVE, with its lack of dialogue, pregnant gazes and moody aesthetic, but perhaps with a bit less flash. If you want some artsy cinematography along with your body count, then this is the gangster film for you.