No one hates bashing a Dario Argento movie more than I do. But I'm not the only one who hates "Giallo." The consensus is right. This movie is as bad as its poster suggests.
Argento's body of work has been a mixed bag since the '80s, ranging from the classic to the mediocre. Now, in the 2000s, the range of the mix has changed. It goes from classic to the awful. "Giallo" is by far the maestro's worst film. Yes, worse than "Phantom of the Opera." Worse even than "The Card Player." It may be time for the Italian Hitchcock to hang it up.
The film's title is misleading, since the movie isn't a giallo film at all. Of course, Argento practically invented the giallo subgenre, so fans were eagerly awaiting what sounded like his triumphant return to the film style he created. I know I was. But "Giallo" isn't even a mystery and doesn't even have the twists and turns giallo movies have been known for. It's basically a tired combination of a cop drama and torture porn film -- a cheap, super simplified, dumbed down "Saw" film. Really bad stuff.
How bad? Here's how bad. Oscar winner Adrian Brody plays an American cop who works for the police in Italy (!) as a lone wolf, tracking serial killers. Asia Argento was originally supposed to star in this film too, but backed out apparently over a pregnancy. Vincent Gallo was supposed to star too, but he backed out when he heard Asia Argneto would be in it (the two of them dated). Both of these actors dodged a bullet.
Roman Polanski's wife, Emanuelle Seigner, sleepwalks through the role instead as the sister of a missing girl. Seigner's character somehow convinces Brody's hardboiled cop to let her follow him on his investigations, scream and medical personnel that won't provide evidence, and basically help him find her kidnapped, model sister (uber hottie Elsa Pataky), whom she suspects has come into contact with the killer.
And who is the killer? Unfortunately, we don't get a mysterious black-gloved stalker, which is what you would expect from a film that advertises itself as a giallo. We get a pasty faced cab driver with yellow skin ("giallo" is the Italian word for "yellow, hence the title of the movie). The killer is also played by Brody apparently, but under heavy makeup. Basically his modus operandi is to pick up beautiful women in his taxicab, take them to his "Saw"-like basement lair, torture and kill them.
We're not treated to any mystery as the movie lumbers along, almost plotlessly. Brody and Seigner, former acting heavyweights, both made stars by Roman Polanski, now turned into direct-to-DVD lightweights, walk and talk aimlessly through the production. There's an attempt at providing drama, as we learn about the cop's origins -- turns out he killed and a murderer in an act of vigilante justice as a teenager, and was thereby recruited by the Italian police who witnessed it. Naturally, the bodies continue dropping and there are visits to crime scenes and an inevitable final confrontation with the pasty-faced killer.
A low-rent cross between "Silence of the Lambs" and "Saw", "Giallo" doesn't look, feel or even sound like a Dario Argento movie. Gone is sumptuous photography, rock music soundtrack (Claudio Simonetti was not hired to do the score) and weird mystery. It shouldn't be a big surprise when you consider the film wasn't even imagined by Argento -- the script was written by the team that penned the "Toolbox Murders" remake from a few years earlier. That film was actually better than this one, which puts just how bad "Giallo" is into perspective.
The one and only thing "Giallo" has going for it is some decent gore content -- the only moments where this feels like an Argento film. But it won't be enough to sustain your interest.