Three men, Cobra (Pierfrancesco Favino), Negro (Filippo Nigro) and Mazinger (Marcio Giallini) are experienced police officers. New to the team is Carletto (Andrea Sartoretti), a young tough that is more ruffian than cop. They are Rome riot cops who serve the public peace but are hated by the people they protect. Dealing with striking workers, evicting illegal tenants, and soccer hooligans, the officers are often the ones being attacked.
Their private lives are complex and sad. They take refuge in their jobs and surround themselves in the brotherhood of the badge. These are men besieged by darkness, wielding the baton, raising their shields, and dispersing the public as they battle their personal demons.
There are undertones of racism, based on the book by newspaper journalist Carlo Bonini, director Stefano Sollima brings the tough subject to life. Sollima is careful not to glorify the motivations of the riot squad while still reveling in the stereotypes. Pierfrancesco Favino portrayal of Cobra is a standout performance. It’s hard to remember him as the bungling kidnapper in the 2010 film Figli Delle Stelle (Children of the Stars). His intensity is incredible and is an Italian actor to watch for.
This is a great character driven drama. Italy’s social problems are highlighted as seen through the riot policeman’s visor. It’s slick, gritty and constantly moving. The actors chemistry utterly oozes off the screen.
The term A.C.A.B. is an acronym that is rarely heard outside of Europe. All Cops Are Bastards is a term from the UK, originating from disputes between unions and policemen in the 1940s. Its been a rallying cry for anarchists and soccer hooligans alike. In Italy they’re named Ultras, although not all Ultras engage in violent fanatical activity. The movie depicts the violent relationship between them and cops.