(director: Giuseppe Capotondi; screenwriters: based on a Charles Willeford novel/Scott B. Smith; cinematographer: David Ungaro; editor: Guido Notari; music: Craig Armstrong; cast: Elizabeth Debicki (Berenice Hollis), Claes Bang (James Figueras), Donald Sutherland (Jerome Debney), Mick Jagger (Joseph Cassidy), Rosalind Halstead (Evelina Macri), Alessandro Fabrizi (Rodolfo); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: David Zander, William Horberg, David Lancaster; Sony Pictures Classics; 2019-UK/Italy)

“A misfire despite star power from Jagger and a terrific performance by Sutherland.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first English language film from Italian director Giuseppe Capotondi (“The Double Hour”) is a debauched noir film set in the fast-paced art world of intrigue. It’s adapted from the 1971 crime writer Charles Willeford’s novel of the same name and is written by Scott B. Smith. The modest-budget crime drama easily switches the book location of Florida to Italy.

The charming art critic with a bad reputation, James Figueras (Claes Bang, Danish actor), is a slick operator in Milan who is first seen giving a tourist group a lecture on how he can build up an ordinary work of art, such as an abstract painting, into being perceived as a masterpiece. Attending the lecture is Berenice Hollis (Elizabeth Debicki, the Aussie actress of a Polish heritage), a teacher from Minnesota on a summer vacation who after the lecture calls him out as a bullshit artist. But after meeting him, gets romantically involved with the con artist.

The debased wealthy art collector Joseph Cassidy (Mick Jagger) invites the couple to stay at his villa in Lake Como. Once there, Cassidy schemes to have Figueras steal a painting from the recluse artist Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland), who has stopped painting for years but maybe not. Previously a fire destroyed his entire work. In any case, he’s using a studio conveniently located on Cassidy’s vast estate to secretly paint again.

The story set-up is alluring, especially when aided by stunning visuals from cinematographer David Ungaro and a handsome playful sexual tryst by the couple. But it all sours by the third act, as the art caper paints itself into a corner with its femme fatale part never made clear (no fault of Debicki) and a story that goes nowhere. It’s a misfire despite star power from Jagger and a terrific performance by Sutherland.

REVIEWED ON 3/15/2020  GRADE: C+