Wednesday, February 23, 2011
GIALLO was written by Jim Agnew and Sean Keller. The screenwriters wrote this script specifically for Dario Argento as an homage to the genre he made famous with movies like THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE and DEEP RED. I don't know if these guys ever saw one of the early gialli from the 60s and 70s but this just does not live up to them.
The basic story here is a deformed man abducts beautiful tourists in Rome to torture and kill them. Adrien Brody plays Enzo, the lead detective on the case. When Linda (Emmanuelle Seigner) comes to visit her fashion model sister who is abducted shortly after, she is thrown into the mix of hunting the killer as well. What ensues is little more than your run of the mill thriller. This is to blame mostly on the screenwriters who seem to have no grasp on what a giallo is all about. Any tension that could be built is lost every time the killer is shown because he's just so goddamn ridiculous to the point of being comical. Brody is never given much to do as the lead, and with a man with as much talent as he has that is a real shame. Linda is a cliche in and out who tries her hardest to hit every one she can.
Aside from all that, one of the biggest downsides to the movie movie is that it is really tame. For an homage to movies that were widely known for their graphic bloody violence, GIALLO has very little. You'll get a couple of scenes that are satisfying in that manner but they are few and far between. Also, most gialli were sexy movies, while this is about as unsexy as it gets. I won't hold Dario Argento without any blame, while his direction certainly didn't hurt the movie, it didn't add much to it. For a man that built his legend on wild camera work, intensely beautiful lighting, and maddening soundtracks we get but a small taste of it here in very sporadic spots.
GIALLO had a troubled production process. All the way from casting to its release on DVD. Vincent Gallo was set to play the killer until he pulled out of the project when his ex-fiancee Asia Argento was cast as the female lead. Asia would pull out after becoming pregnant. Ray Liotta was originally cast in the role of Enzo, and would eventually be replaced by Brody. The movie would then hang in distribution purgatory when even Dario Argento himself didn't have a clue what was going on with it. When it was released it had apparently been re-cut by the producers who seemed to have a very large portion of control during the entire process and Argento was not at all happy with what appeared on the screen and has since more or less disowned the project. And to top it off shortly after the movie came out on DVD it was pulled from shelves when Adrien Brody had to sue the producers because he was never paid in full for his role in the film. A couple months later they reached a settlement and the movie was again available on disc in the US. All of this could play a big part in why GIALLO falls flat, but I'll still lay a very large majority of blame on the two screenwriters who failed to deliver anything that anyone, no matter the talent could make great.
I'll be the first to admit that I get excited over Dario Argento. His recent films certainly have had mixed results and just as mixed reaction but when he has a new movie coming out I clamor for the chance to see it. GIALLO isn't his best effort, that much is certain. It fails as an homage to the fantastic horror thrillers of decades past, but it is competent thriller. I'd love to say that this is vintage Argento, but when you add up everything that went on with it, no matter who was at fault, it is what it is.