This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
There’s a sub-genre of Italian cinema that you may or may not be aware of called giallo. In a nutshell, it occupies a middle-ground between murder mystery, thriller and slasher flick. There’s a director named Dario Argento you may or not be aware of. In a nutshell, his earlier career had pretty much invented and produced what’s nearly universally considered to be the best examples of the genre with films like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red. Noted for his effective builds of tension and strong visual stylings, sadly his latter day output has fallen a good way short of his high water mark.
Not to put too fine a point on it, they’ve been bloody awful. It was hoped that his return to the genre that brought him to the dance in the first place would prove to be a triumph. Well, we’re making a note here, huge failure. However, the many ways in which it fails unwittingly turns it into a work of comedic gold. I hope that was the intention, because judged on any traditional thriller standards it’s disastrous. Therefore, I’m going to review it as though it were intended as a comedy.
I’m perhaps getting ahead of myself. We find ourselves in Torino following ex-New York F.B.I. agent police detective Inspector Enzo Avolfi (Adrian Broady) on the trail of a serial killer, who’s M.O. appears to be kidnapping any pretty young girls that get into his taxi cab and doing the usual horrible things to the poor unfortunates. One of these victims appears to be Celine (Elsa Pataky), the fashion model younger sister of Linda (Emmanuelle Seigner), who co-incidentally has just arrived in town to meet her.
Turning to Enzo to help find out her sister’s fate, the two eventually join forces to take down the killer, revealing Enzo’s tragic backstory along the way. And could that be the twinkling of a love affair threatening to develop? It would seem likely, wouldn’t it?
The thing about Giallo, the film, is that Argento has managed to distill entirely the inverse of what makes a good giallo, the genre. Gone is the tension, remaining is the atrociously cliche-ridden script. Gone is pacing, remaining is the excruciating acting.
Oh, while Adrian Brody’s bafflingly anagrammatically credited double duty as the bad guy (an entirely separate character, so that’s genuinely not a spoiler) running around gurning with an accent about as realistic as Super Mario’s was not, as I recall, a staple of the genre, that’s what we’re left with here. Come to thing of it, it’s not much worse than his third rate Al Pacino imitation Serpico-schtick assumed as the detective.
Its failure, however, is glorious. Surely this must be intentional. There may be no useful build of tension, but there is a sense of comic timing and absolute absurdism that’s too good to possibly have come about by accident. In particular what should be the tragic revelations about Enzo’s backstory is the utterly absurd handled with a straight-faced glibness that must, surely, have intended to receive the laughter that it did.
Normally when I’m sat laughing at how bad a film is, I’m pretty much on my own, so it’s good to see that the majority of the screening room agreed that, yes, this film is hilarious. Particular plaudits, if that’s the term, must go to Emmanuelle Seigner who plays Linda with a laudably terrible performance. It’s breathtakingly awful, the sort of professionally awful that can only come from a lifetime of study and perfecting the art of the awful performance.
Frankly, I laughed a lot more often watching Giallo than I did with most of the last few year’s comedies. Were it not for the nagging sensation that, actually, I was supposed to be taking this seriously then I’d be considering it for film of the year status. If it were taken seriously, I’d be considering it for worst film of the year, but I choose in this instance to look on the bright side.