A Film Review by L.L. Soares
GIALLO, like a lot of Dario Argento’s recent films, is a mixed bag. Referring to both the color yellow (‘giallo” is Italian for yellow), and the pulp paperbacks with yellow covers that featured the violent mystery stories which gave the Italian genre of books and films its name, GIALLO gives us a fairly straightforward tale of a serial killer known only as Giallo/Yellow (Byron Deidra), who drives a cab through the busy streets of Milan. He is drawn to beauty, and when a beautiful woman gets into his cab, chances are good she won’t be heard from again. In his apartment building, there are catacombs beneath the house that give him lots of places to hide his prey. He tortures them until they die, and then he moves on to the next one.
When a model named Celine (Elsa Pataky) becomes Giallo’s latest victim, her sister Linda (Emmanuelle Seigner), who has just arrived from the airport, is determined that her sister will not become just another statistic. Refusing to give up, she turns to Inspector Enzo Avolfi (Oscar-winner Adrien Brody), a former New York cop who now solves the more gruesome crimes that arise in Milan. Allegedly a master of detection, Inspector Avolfi seems almost like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, except for one thing. Where Holmes was mostly infallible, Enzo is not always so good at his job.
Avoiding the kind of stylish visuals he is known for, Argento mostly plays things straight here. Too straight. There’s nothing especially unique about this film, nothing that really stands out, except for Brody, who turns in an okay performance in an otherwise pedestrian film. There is absolutely no evidence here that GIALLO was directed by the same guy who gave us SUSPIRIA (1977) or OPERA (1987). I’m really starting to wonder if the real Argento has been replaced with a pod person!
When we finally see Yellow, who gets his name because of jaundice due to a liver disease, he’s a guy with an awful make-up job and a giant nose. I guess he was supposed to be deformed, and this should explain to us why he hates beauty so much, but he’s just incredibly fake-looking. Every time he was onscreen, I was reminded of those over-the-top goofy villains from the DICK TRACY movie (1990). That alone made me want him to get caught and get his comeuppance. Yellow, as a source of menace, is just plain laughable!
And the killer is not much of an adversary for Brody. He’s such a dim-witted fool he makes Enzo seem like a genius. But Yellow has one advantage—a thorough knowledge of the catacombs. And it is this knowledge that gives him the upper hand in at least one key scene.
I remember when Argento’s MOTHER OF TEARS came out in 2009, some people gave me a hard time for praising it so highly. But the truth is, it was a rare time in recent memory when Argento seemed at all passionate about his work, instead of just going through the motions. Even if you hated the more campy elements of MOTHER, you couldn’t miss the fact that here was a stylist, having fun, perhaps at his audience’s expense. But at least it felt vibrant at times, alive. That’s been something rare in Argento’s recent work.
There’s no such feeling with GIALLO. It is drab and workmanlike. There is no art here to be seen. And it’s rather forgettable once the final credits roll.
For someone considered a master of disturbing visuals and surreal atmosphere, there’s none of that to be found. The only visual that we remember is of the killer – a preposterous fool whose appearance generates more laughs than scares. I haven’t seen this bad a make-up job in a horror movie in a long time.
It’s ironic that GIALLO was pulled from distribution shortly after its release in America. Due to a financial dispute with the producers who failed to pay him, Brody’s contract stipulated that his image couldn’t be used by the film until financial matters were corrected. The irony is, Brody is the only really reason to see this one. I saw it on Cable OnDemand during its brief run here in the summer of 2010, but now it’s unavailable. It’s not that big of a tragedy, because it’s pretty forgettable, but if the money people behind GIALLO really want to recoup their expenses, they would best pay Brody what he is due. This is minor Argento, given a slight boost by the presence of an actor who deserves more respect than he got here.
I give this movie one and a half knives. The only actor who stands out in this one is Brody, despite that fact that this is not one of his more memorable roles. And I chuckled at the hilarious make-up job on Byron Deidra.
© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares
LL SOARES gives GIALLO – one and a half knives