Nine More Nights of Argento #8 – “Giallo” (2009)

giallo

Last October, I saw the first nine films directed by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento. With the spooky season upon us again, I’ve decided to check out the back-half of Argento’s filmography, from 1990’s George A. Romero team-up Two Evil Eyes to 2012’s notorious flop Dracula 3D.

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While I burned away the 90-odd minutes of my life that it took to watch Giallo, the latest in a long line of increasingly sleepy serial killer films from Dario Argento, one thought incessantly lingered in the back of my mind: What is Adrien Brody doing here?

A bonafide A-list talent and the youngest man to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actor, Brody plays two separate characters in Giallo: the killer and the cop who is searching for him.

The cop is Inspector Enzo Avolfi, a New York transplant helping a young woman (a drowsy Emmanuelle Seigner) find her abducted sister. The killer is Flavio Volpe, a jaundiced sadist who drives around Turin in his taxi cab, picking up beautiful girls and “making them ugly”. As Flavio, Brody is hidden under a pound of prosthetic makeup. As Enzo, Brody looks like Brody. The notion that these two men, cop and killer, are “two sides of the same coin” is bludgeoned into us with sledge-hammer subtlety, yet simultaneously (and paradoxically) goes entirely ignored.

The film itself is essentially dead-on-arrival, spending its entire running time alternating between bland scenes of Brody #1 mumbling exposition to his inanimate Italian co-stars and bland scenes of women being tortured by Brody #2 in a dingy Hostel-lite dungeon. Although the film’s title evokes a subgenre famous for mysterious killers in black gloves who unmask and explain away their motives in the final reel, Giallo doesn’t bother with any of that. We know who the killer is from the beginning (Flavio) and he doesn’t much care for gloves or motives.

In all of this stagnancy, Brody’s presence is the elephant in the room. You can’t look at the film through any other prism because there’s simply nothing else there. It’s hard to comprehend his involvement with the film and it’s even harder to fathom the pair of comatose performances he gives us with Enzo and Flavio. So, again: What is Adrien Brody doing here?

You can’t fault Brody for wanting to work with Argento. It’s possible the actor was a fan of the director’s early films and simply took an opportunity to collaborate with a legend. But did he read the screenplay? Did he know what he was getting himself into? Did he spend all those hours in the makeup chair thinking of ways to deliver his inane dialogue in the flattest, most inaudible way? Or was his on-camera absence just out of spite for the constant interference from the producers that he later sued for not paying him?

For Argento’s part, he has since disowned Giallo, claiming that it was recut by the producers and strayed from his original vision. While this is plausible, no amount of editing can salvage a film where seemingly no effort was put in by anyone above the line. For those keeping score, Giallo‘s closest relative is The Card Player, another lackluster affair that doesn’t try hard enough to inspire either outright hatred or unintentional laughter. It just fades in, screams, mumbles, and rolls credits.

Next up: DRACULA 3D (2012)

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Categories: Dario Argento, Director Spotlight, Features, Reviews

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