The Sicilian represents a botched telling of the life of postwar outlaw leader Salvatore Giuliano. Just who contributed to what parts of the botching remain a mystery, since uncredited hands cut 30 minutes from the version director Michael Cimino delivered. [The 145-minute version was later released on video, and theatrically in Europe.]
Cimino seems to be aiming for an operatic telling of the short career of the violent 20th-century folk hero [based on Mario Puzo’s novel], but falls into an uncomfortable middle ground between European artfulness and stock Hollywood conventions.
Saga served as the basis of Francesco Rosi’s 1962 Salvatore Giuliano, and has at its core a popular young man who, working from the mountains, employs increasingly excessive means to further his dream of achieving radical land distribution from the titled estate owners to the peasants.
Giuliano unhesitatingly kills anyone he thinks has betrayed him, and maintains a semi-adversarial, curiously equivocal relationship with both the Catholic Church and the all-powerful Mafia.
In the lead, Christophe (billed in US projects as Christopher) Lambert betrays little inner conflict or sense of thought, and simply does not make Giuliano interesting.
Coming off by far the best is Joss Ackland, who makes the Mafia chieftain a warm, sympathetic man one enjoys being around. Richard Bauer makes a strong impression as an adviser and go-between for Giuliano and the Mafia, and Giulia Boschi is strikingly, seriously beautiful as the hero’s wife.