Sunday, April 01, 2018

CIFF ’18: Control

We’re a bit behind on the Vincke-Verstuyft Trilogy here in America. Sony Classics picked up the first film, The Memory Killer, but Dossier K. only had festival play. Fortunately, it shouldn’t be too hard to catch up for their third outing: Vincke and Verstuyft are Antwerp police detectives. They solve murders. Are you with us so far? The friendship between Eric Vincke and his younger, scruffier subordinate Freddy Verstuyft will be tested by the circumstances of their latest, entirely self-contained case in Jan Verheyen’s Control (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival.

Thanks to a poacher, a serial killer is scared off while disposing of a corpse. Apparently, the unknown subject has done this before, judging from the headless bodies that are subsequently discovered in the open field. Vincke and Verstuyft have very different ideas on how to pursue the case. The former brings in a profiler from Holland and focuses all the task force’s attention on suspects who had recently moved from Cologne, where similar victims had been discovered. However, Verstuyft is convinced that a possible intended victim holds the answers they need, if she can just recover her memories of what happened before she was discovered shivering, apparently drugged, with her hair mysteriously died red.

Rather awkwardly, in addition to being a hard partier, Rina is a psychologist with a history of testifying against cops in alleged brutality cases. Vincke wants nothing to do with her. He prefers to surveil the suspects he considers likeliest, including an American Foreign Service Officer and a video game developer, which is so Euro of him.

Control is an entertaining procedural, even if the final suspect isn’t such a big shock. Aside from viewers themselves, the un-sub the only one left alive or not conclusively eliminated. Still, it is a decent amusement ride getting there. As Vincke and Verstuyft, Koen De Bouw and Werner De Smedt convincingly bicker like old, annoyed friends. De Smedt also forges some surprisingly convincing romantic chemistry with Sofie Hoflack’s Rina, even though he is everything she should despise, and vice versa. Hendrik Aerts is appropriately brutish and twitchy as her most suspicious patient, while Greg Timmermans makes a likably luggish audience proxy as Wim Cassiers, the plugger detective caught between Vincke and Verstuyft’s power games.

At times, Control seems to be hat-tipping elements of Basic Instinct, but it arguably uses its Euro-ness to mislead its domestic viewers, at least with respect to the killer’s true identity. Verheyen keeps it zipping along, while his co-leads dial up their grizzled cynicism and world-weariness. While not exactly a reinvention of the genre, all the elements come together quite entertainingly. Recommended for fans of procedurals and serial killer movies, Control screens this Thursday (4/5) and Friday (4/6), as part of the 2018 CIFF.