Feel Sad with the Hitmen of Salvo


At first glance, Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s Salvo looks like just another entry into the Sensitive Hit-man genre: During a sticky Palermo summer heat wave, Mafia hit-man Salvo (Saleh Bakri) has a change of heart and decides not to kill Rita (Sara Serraiocco), the blind sister of his prey.

Salvo instead kidnaps and imprisons her in an abandoned warehouse, unaware that at the moment he spared Rita’s life, her vision began to return. The opening scenes suggest the possibility that this may be a John Woo homage, complete with symbolic white birds and anonymous bad guys wearing black motorcycle helmets; indeed, a hit man with a heart of gold finding his life is changed by a blind girl is reminiscent of Woo’s masterpiece The Killer.

But Salvo has more of a Michelangelo Antonioni agenda, as the protagonist spends much of the movie stewing in existential angst and contemplating his decaying Sicilian surroundings. Grassadonia and Piazza’s camera love Saleh Bakri’s eyes and furrowed brow — he could play the protagonist in a Grand Theft Auto movie — though Sara Serraiocco’s become equally important as she regains both her vision and her agency in the story.

Viewers looking for a shoot-em-up will be disappointed, but those hankering for an old-school Italian broodfest will find plenty to soak in.