MONTREAL — A low-rent suspense film that starts unpromisingly but heats up quite a bit, Italy’s On the Way Home may have little import potential, but it’s not hard to imagine this cleverly plotted, under-executed film inspiring American producers to wonder how cheaply they could buy the remake rights.
The feature debut for writer/director Emiliano Corapi, On the Way was shown at the festival via an awful video transfer that degraded seemingly competent cinematography by Raoul Torresi and appeared to chop the top and bottom from the image as well — all the more problematic given that Corapi frames action too tightly from the start, only to move in closer as tension mounts in the final act.
The premise may sound overly familiar — Alberto, a businessman who has always walked the straight and narrow, accepts an illegal smuggling mission when his nail-making factory nears bankruptcy –a difficulty compounded by Vinicio Marchioni’s performance, full of hand-wringing and sweaty brows. His nervousness doubles when mystery men kidnap his family, forcing him to double-cross the smugglers, and a dumb mistake (has Daylight Savings Time ever served as a suspense-film plot point before?) causes him to miss the handoff.
Faint echoes of Duel arise when Marchioni sets off in stop-and-go pursuit of the red Volvo carrying the contraband he’s supposed to have. To the film’s benefit, that car’s driver is played by an actor (Daniele Liotti) with a good deal more range than his co-star: Almost single-handedly, Liotti makes the movie worth watching, finding pathos in an intentionally underwritten role. When Corapi eventually gives him more to do, Liotti projects an urgency and moral torment Marchioni can’t muster.
At three or four points in the film’s second half, Corapi makes up for iffy direction by solving plot quandaries in a way viewers likely won’t expect. He causes trouble for himself at times, most glaringly in a climax that leaps inexplicably from jeopardy to resolution. Fortunately for remake-minded producers, the narrative gap he leaves is just the kind of thing Hollywood would have wanted to reinvent for itself anyway.
Venue: Montreal World Film Festival, Focus on World Cinema
Production Company: Marvin Film
Cast: Vinicio Marchioni, Daniele Liotti, Donatella Finocchiaro, Claudia Pandolfi, Fabrizio Rangione, Massimo Popolizion
Director-screenwriter: Emiliano Corapi
Producer: Valerio Mezzabarba, Andrea Petrozzi
Director of photography: Raoul Torresi
Production designer: Ettore Guerrieri
Music: Giordano Corapi
Editor: Andrea Maguolo
No rating, 80 minutes