Giallo -- Film Review

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EDINBURGH -- Adrien Brody writes another offbeat chapter in his idiosyncratic filmography with the uneven cop-vs.-killer thriller "Giallo."

This unlikely-on-paper, underwhelming-in-execution collaboration between Oscar winner Brody and legendary horror-suspense director Dario Argento doesn't rank anywhere near the finest work by either man. And though "Giallo," like Argento's 2007 "Mother of Tears," has been picked up for North American distribution by the Weinstein Co., it will be lucky to obtain even the most fleeting of big-screen releases before heading to ancillary afterlife.

"Mother of Tears" had a kind of gruesome, berserk brio that if nothing else commanded attention. But in "Giallo," flashes of inspiration are few and far between. It's no surprise that this is the first time in his long career that Argento has served as director-for-hire on a screenplay devised by others. The director reportedly has distanced himself from the project and was conspicuous by his absence at Edinburgh.

Little-known American writers Jim Agnew and Sean Keller devised the project in tribute to their idol Argento. The plot dutifully plays like a rehash of numerous elements from his oeuvre. We follow maverick lone-wolf cop Enzo (Brody) around Turin, Italy -- the city looks great, and all of its residents are fluent in English -- on the trail of a demented, gibbering killer dubbed "Yellow" because of his jaundiced skin.

The latter detail is an in-joke for the fans: Yellow in Italian is "giallo," the name of the mystery genre with which Argento made his name. Tagging along with Enzo is Linda (a monotonously shrill Emanuelle Seigner), sister of Yellow's latest victim. Police-procedural scenes are intercut with stygian excursions to Yellow's dungeonlike lair, where fashion model Celine (Brody's real-life fiancee, Elsa Pataky) lies a helpless, terrified prisoner.

Brody, retaining his Queens accent (unconvincingly explained by his character having spent some childhood years in New York) sensibly plays it straight throughout even when the functional-at-best, pseudo-hard-boiled dialogue teeters dangerously on the edge of camp.

If nothing else, "Giallo" might provide amusing entertainment for indulgent midnight-movie aficionados: -- genre-savvy audiences who will cop to the picture's most bizarre element: Under the anagrammatical pseudonym 'Byron Deidra,' Brody plays both cop and killer.

This is a baffling, gimmicky bit of casting, as there's never any suggestion that the characters are one and the same, nor even in any way connected. Brody's rubbery prosthetic makeup, shaggy black hair and sweaty red bandanna getup as Yellow, meanwhile, combine for a dopey look that's much more Rambo than psycho.

Venue: Edinburgh International Film Festival (The Weinstein Co.)
Production: Giallo Productions/Opera Film (Rome)
Cast: Adrien Brody, Emmanuelle Seigner, Elsa Pataky, Byron Deidra, Robert Miano
Director: Dario Argento
Screenwriters: Jim Agnew, Sean Keller, Dario Argento
Producers: Rafael Primorac, Richard Rionda Del Castro, Adrien Brody
Director of photography: Frederico Fasano
Production designer: Davide Bassan
Music: Marco Werba
Costume designer: Stefania Svizzeretto
Editor: Roberto Silvi
Not rated, 91 minutes