There were loads of truck driver films made during the 1970s, but unlike US releases such as WHITE LINE FEVER, TRUCK STOP WOMEN and BREAKER! BREAKER!, this Italian effort avoids the standard drive-in clichés and is, instead, a rambling road movie featuring two mismatched men thrown together by fate. Though not exactly what you might expect from director Sergio Corbucci -- best known for action vehicles and spaghetti westerns like DJANGO and THE GREAT SILENCE -- there's plenty of talent at work, with cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno (ALL THAT JAZZ, Fellini's AMARCORD) and an excellent early showcase for Giancarlo Giannini, who'd just won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his starring role in Lina Wertmüller's LOVE AND ANARCHY... Long-haul truck driver Sandro (Michel Constantin) has been behind the wheel of his rig (nicknamed "The Beast") for twenty years, but when his longtime partner and friend Matteo fails a medical exam, Sandro gets paired up with younger hotshot Nino (Giannini). The two have little in common, and when Nino gets his ass kicked by Dutch truckers, his first instinct is to get revenge, but veteran trucker Sandro always puts their load first. Basically, Nino is the type of carefree guy who'll wander off during a pit stop in order to screw a comely milkmaid, while Sandro is likely to drive off without him. Giannini is always terrific at playing a womanizing rogue, and while his character isn't as nuanced as those in his later Wertmüller gigs like SWEPT AWAY or SEVEN BEAUTIES, the script gives him plenty of opportunities to shine, such as when Nino finds himself stuck in Warsaw while Sandro is off visiting his mistress Madga (Dalila Di Lazzaro). Wandering the city alone, he's disheartened by Polish restaurants' sad excuse for spaghetti and takes advantage of Madga while Sandro is passed out in the next room. But Nino also displays a softer side when he later discovers Sandro's teenaged daughter (Imma Piro) with some creep in a Lamborghini, gets the girl safely back home and doesn't rat her out to her father. Giannini is well paired with Constantin, with this odd couple eventually buying their own truck and going into business together as independents, which leads to unexpected repairs, strike-breaking and dealing with the mob. It isn't all fun and work though, because the script by Sergio Donati and Luciano Vincenzoni, a pair of Sergio Leone alumni, doesn't avoid the downside of this difficult, transient lifestyle and moments of tragedy, eventually exposing both men as sad, lonely individuals with screwed-up relationships. And don't expect much high-speed action either. Although Corbucci squeezes in a brief roadway chase and highly suspenseful climax where the pair's lives and their precious truck literally hang in the balance, this film primarily sticks to character-driven conflict and camaraderie, as Nino and Sandro get on each other's nerves yet ultimately set aside their differences in hopes of incrementally bettering their lives.
© 2022 by Steven Puchalski.