Giallo (2009)

25 years ago Dario Argento made "Opera", his last great film in a string of films that any writer/director would kill for. After the release of "Opera" Argento spent the next few years trying to distance himself from his reputation as the preeminent Italian horror director. He dabbled in production and writing, helping to launch the careers of both Lamberto Bava and Michele Soavi (Cemetary Man). Argento returned to the directors chair in earnest for the 1992 American film "Trauma." An underwhelming return, Argento has been trying to recapture the glory of his youth since it's release. He's dabbled in police dramas (The Card Player), made for TV films (Do You like Hitchcock?) and even completed his Three Mothers Trilogy with the bat-shit crazy "Mother of Tears". Yet it all pales in comparison to the quality of his output of Argentos pre-Opera days.

2009 saw Argento reach for the jugular of the genre he helped define - the giallo. Italian for yellow, the name became synonomous with the genre because of the color of the covers of the books that contained the types of stories Argento often told in his early films. Argentos latest giallo follows Oscar winner Adrian Brody as he teams with the sister of a missing model to hunt down a sadistic serial killer.

Brody plays Enzo Avolfi a lone detective who was born in Italy and raised in New York (hence the perfect American accent). He returned to Italy to hunt down and kill his mothers murderer. Adopted by the chief of the police, Brody is the one man who can bring the killer to justice. He is joined by Emmanuelle Seigner as the sister of kidnapped Elsa Pataky (Beyond Re-Animator and Brodys real life girlfriend at the time) in the hunt for a killer know as "giallo" or "yellow" because of the color of his jaundiced skin.

"Giallo" (the movie, not the killer) is quite maddening to watch at times. Brody is excellent, as one would expect him to be. Pataky is very good as well as the killers desperate victim. The issue is not with the performances but the decisions the characters make are just mind boggling. The script penned by Jim Agnew, Sean Keller and polished by Argento himself, is one of the biggest messes ever filmed. There are some good ideas hidden in the script, but most of it is just so stupid it makes your brain hurt. Characters figure things out at the precise moment that it benefits them the most, even though there is no indication that they should ever be able to do so. Brody has an NYPD shirt in his office, but claims to have returned to Italy when he was 14. Either he stole that shirt or he was the youngest member of the NYPD ever. When the killer seems to be in reach, Brodys formerly uber-proactive detective decides that they should "just wait." He has a similar strategy when searching for the victim. His keen detective skills tell him that instead of finding the missing girl they should "just wait." These types of things are so stupid it takes the movie watcher completely out of the film.

There are some definate positives to be found in the film though. Visually it's very powerful. Despite his recent slump, Argento uses color and his sets to illustrate a mood better than any director alive today. Turin, Italy, where the movie was filmed and takes place is the silent star of the film. The way it is presented makes the city feel both magnificent and chillingly claustrophobic at the same time. Despite there being a limited number of actual deaths in the film the gore is definately a presence. A few classic Argento-esque moments that will make the hair on your arms stand up on end are also included.

There is value to be found in the film. Visually it's powerful. The gore is there. There are a few good scares. But the script is terrible, and the less said about the ending the better. It has to be the most un-inspired ending in all of Argentos films. It's almost as if they ran out of money (which they did) and just tacked on the end in a half an hour because they needed something to get to the credits.

Overall - If you are an Argento completest, or even a casual fan you should check this out. It's more "The Card Player" than "Suspiria" but it's still not a bad way to spend and hour and a half.

**1/2 stars out of 5

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