A bizarre Italian thriller with a great cast, but lacking an engaging plot.
Donato Carrisi is one of the most celebrated contemporary Italian crime writers, and his novels have won critical acclaim and commercial success. Carrisi made his directorial debut film three years ago, titled The Girl in the Fog, an excellent part murder mystery/thriller that stood out due to its great storyline and the remarkable, cohesive and absorbing plot. When I learned that he would shoot his second film, based again on one of his novels, the titular Into the Labyrinth (original title: L'uomo del labirinto), I was very excited and overeager to watch it at the first chance I would get, even though I was not familiar with the book. Unfortunately, this is not a movie equal to the previous Carrisi flick and its main flaw is the jumbled plot, which in parts it is also implausible and farfetched, that overshadows the film's merits such as the Lynch-like colorful cinematography and the great cast. Toni Servillo, who was also the protagonist in The Girl in the Fog, holds the primary role of Bruno Genko, a private eye whose main business activities have to do with dept collecting and similar stuff. Nevertheless, over fifteen years ago, Genko took over a critical case, that of the abduction of a young girl, Samantha, who has now been found after a mysterious anonymous call to the authorities. Samantha is kept in the hospital and when she wakes up from her coma, she finds beside her Dr. Green, played by the veteran American performer, Dustin Hoffman. Dr. Green is a criminal profiler who explains to Samantha that he is there to help her remember details regarding her abduction and help her identify the perpetrator. At the same moment, Genko is drawn once again into his old investigation, as he is determined to find out what happened to Samantha and who is the kidnapper.
Thus, the movie is narrated mainly through Genko's point of view and there are a few interjecting sequences from the hospital where Dr. Green is struggling to get the right words from Samantha, who is heavily drugged and mostly unable to recollect a thing from the last fifteen years of her life. The only thing she can remember is a place that she calls "The Labyrinth", a maze inside which she had to play wicked games to entertain her sadistic captor. The director hints to possible unreliable characters and the audience should be reluctant to trust any of the main protagonists of the film, as nothing is what it seems in Donato Carrisi's universe. What struck me most in this movie and determined my final -reticent- assessment of it was that there was a problem with the pacing, manifested as a lack of any sense of continuity in the story and the main plotline. At many times during the film's running time, I got a sense of disruption in the stream of narration that was both confusing and disturbing. The climax is almost non-existent, and the final twist(s) is foreseeable and anticipated. Perhaps this is also a problem in the novel, but even so, the director had the opportunity to present his story through an entirely different medium and should be more careful with major aspects such as the tempo and the continuity of his narration.
Apart from the above, Into the Labyrinth, has some nice qualities, having to do mainly with the cinematography and the performances by the actors in both primary and supporting roles. The photography of the film is exceptional, reminiscent in that sense of The Girl in the Fog, with the prominent use of the red and black colors that create a grotesque atmosphere that is aligned with the movie's script. Toni Servillo gives once again a solid performance as the persistent, moribund private investigator who is obsessed with the cast and will do anything to solve it. Dustin Hoffman doesn't have so much screen time, but he is also befitting in the role of the mysterious Dr. Green. I am an ardent fan of Italian crime films and perhaps that's why I always set my expectations a bit higher than normal. Into the Labyrinth is not a first-rate thriller and cannot be compared with the superb, Girl in the Fog. If you are a fan of Donato Carrisi's body of work, you shouldn't miss it while fans of Euro-crime would certainly want to add this film to their record.