When Violent City made its United States box office debut, it was released under the title The Family, with the intention of capitalizing on The Godfather's success. And in a way, it was a family movie, considering that two actors from the cast—Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland—were actually married. In fact, when Italian director Sergio Sollima started working on the project, the first choice for the leading man was Jon Voight. But the script eventually landed in Bronson's lap, and upon reading it, the actor decided that he would portray the main character, under the condition that his wife Jill get the role of Vanessa. And the rest is history, because Violent City cemented Bronson as a leading man, helping his transition from a character actor to an international superstar.
In the movie, Bronson plays Jeff Heston, a hitman who gets betrayed by his associate Coogan, while on vacation with his girlfriend Vanessa. Left for dead and framed for a murder he did not commit, Heston ends up in jail. After he gets out, the protagonist goes looking for Vanessa and the man that deceived him. Unfortunately, what he finds is trouble—and his name is Al Weber (played by Telly Savalas), a crime boss responsible for Heston's misfortune. Today, Violent City has a cult following, with noted filmmakers, like Nicolas Winding Refn, claiming that this is their favorite Italian genre movie of all time.