Isola (Pietro Castellitto) and Yvonne (Matilda De Angelis) are two Italians who fell in love in the worst time of their country’s history. In 1945, Benito ‘Il Duce’ Mussolini was losing the war but still had a stranglehold on the country. Isola has to sneak around so that Il Duce’s henchmen doesn’t catch Yvonne around him. She is, after all, the mistress of one of his generals, Achille. Another thing that makes Isola special in 1940’s Italy is that he’s an agent who steals contraband. Isola and his team includes a codebreaker (Luigi Fedele) and a sniper (Tommaso Ragno).
The group discover that Il Duce is hiding gold in Milan’s Black Zone. Also, that the fascists are taking it up to Switzerland before the war is over. The team, though, is not going to let that happen. So they recruited more members, including a driver (Marcello Macchia), an explosives expert (Alberto Astorri), and a pickpocket (Coco Rebecca Edogamhe) to try to steal that gold. And each member has their own motivation for doing so. Hijinks ensue in trying to get a member or two out of death sentences to commit another crime.
That’s the basic plot of Robbing Mussolini, which, to its credit, has a screenplay that lets the good criminals share the spotlight with the bad war criminals. The fascists stole from the rich but only to make themselves richer, sharing that wealth only to a select few. The movie clocks at 93 minutes and even with that length it has its share of filler scenes. Specifically, it shows the gold a few too many times. And that’s before Isola and his group finally get their hands on it.
It’s totally understandable that Robbing Mussolini is trying to put off its more exciting moments for its final act but that makes the first two less exciting. Setting up the safe areas to hide before the Black Zone should have felt bigger than the movie makes it feel. There’s also a plot twist in the third act. The movie does its best to flesh out that plot twist to make it fit within what happened beforehand. But that doesn’t stop it from feeling forced.
Eventually, Robbing Mussolini gets to its big score. Another thing where I try to see the filmmaker’s side in all of this is that yes, it’s good to have a movie to be under 95 minutes. But what this movie has in story beat efficiency it lacks in characterization. There should be more to the other group’s members than just the romantic plotlines for four of its characters. And sure it explains why each character is doing what they’re doing but it helps to flesh out those answers.