Sunday, June 02, 2024

Open Roads ’24: Adagio

No matter how old they get, aging gangsters like Cammello are always going to be dangerous. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t still be alive. Despite their differences, they will do their best to protect a teenaged boy from the crooked cop he knows too much about in Stefano Sollima’s Adagio, which screens during this year’s Open Roads: New Italian Cinema.

With fires raging outside the city limits, Rome looks like it is on the brink of an apocalypse. Even if it is the end of the world, Vasco and his extralegal task-force want to film a high-profile politician engaged in compromising sexual acts at an
Eyes Wide Shut-style orgy. They intend to use Manuel to get it. Having arrested him for solicitation, they will expose him at school and in his neighborhood, unless he cooperates. However, when Manuel notices the many cameras recording the party’s debauchery, he gets spooked and flees.

Realizing he is a threat to Vasco, Manuel takes refuge with blind Polniuman, a former colleague of his ex-gangster father Daytona, in a now defunct Roman criminal syndicate. Polniuman is as shrewd as ever, but he never muscle even when he could see, so he sends the teenager to Cammello, who is still a grizzled bull of a man. He and Daytona had a bitter falling out, but Polniuman knows he won’t turn the young boy away.

Sollima is responsible for the worst Tom Clancy adaptation ever,
Without Remorse, which showed zero understanding of what his books were all about (here’s a hint: the U.S. military are supposed to be the good guys). However, he totally gets Italian gangster dramas. Adagio is gritty as heck and achingly tragic. The nights are hot and humid, while the sky disconcertingly glows, thanks to the smoke from the fires. That all makes an especially potent setting for film noir. Incidentally, the way he and cinematographer Paolo Carnera depict the crimson Roman skies is no exaggeration. Take it from someone who was in New York last year for the orange atmosphere resulting from Canada’s out of control forest fires.

Adagio is far from perfect (frankly, Manuel is a big nothing of a character), it is super-stylish and Pierfrancesco Favino is massively hardnosed as Cammello. Favino is physically imposing, but his screen-presence is even larger. You would hardly recognize him from The War Machine, but he can play a strong silent type on land as well as at sea.

Toni Servillo is also terrific playing against type as the infirm Daytona, who maybe is not as dementia-stricken as presents himself. Adrianno Gianini brings a lot of depth and dimension to Vasco, who is a bad cop, but a decent father. Valerio Mastandrea adds a lot of crusty color as Polniuman, but unfortunately, he does not have much screentime. The rest of the cops are just cliched stock characters.

is unapologetically fatalistic, but it is a well-made gangster film. The incessant rap music is annoying, but at least it serves a dramatic purpose. In general, it is good to have another film reminding everyone to respect their elders, or else. Recommended for its style and tough old guys, Adagio screens tonight (6/2) and Wednesday (6/5) as part of Open Roads.