In other hands than Bellocchio's, Fists in the Pocket could have been a horror movie, or perhaps a black comedy. (Push Momma From the Cliff?) Instead, it's a bit of both, but much more. Alessandro (Lou Castel) is a psychopath, but his family isn't much better: Only his mild-mannered retarded brother, Leone (Pier Luigi Troglio), seems to be blameless. Like Alessandro, Leone has a neurological disorder that causes seizures. Both keep them under control with medication, but Leone needs constant attention to make sure he stays on his meds, whereas Alessandro sometimes goes off of them just for the hell of it. Their sister, Giulia (Paola Pitagora), is just unstable, while their older brother, Augusto (Marino Masé), approaches normality, but with a weary cynicism that makes him ineffective. All of them are in service to their blind mother (Liliana Gerace), with whom they live in a shabby-genteel villa in Northern Italy. We get an efficiently presented glimpse of the family's various modes of dysfunction in a dinner table scene near the beginning of the film. Bellocchio uses this family as a vehicle for satire on the pieties surrounding the family, including reverence for ancestors and for the church. It's one of the most effective attacks on sentimental portraits of family life this side of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, which in many ways it resembles.