The Double Hour

June, 2011, Thriller

Directed by:Giuseppe Capotondi

Starring:Filippo Timi and Kseniya Rappoport

 

 

 

A decade ago, American director Brian De Palma (The Untouchables) gave audiences a slick thriller called Femme Fatale about  a pair of double-crossing female thieves whose precise role in a dazzling jewel theft emerged through the dreams of a very sexy (and rather inadvertently-dressed heroine) who turned the plot upside down when the audience finally received enough clues to distinguish between fantasy and reality. De Palma’s storyline was wildly improbable, but he had such a wonderful time teasing the audience I’ve wondered since whether he wasn’t deliberately saying he could manipulate us at will, playing with our ability to discern what tricks he was really up to.

This sturdy Italian thriller by first-time director Giuseppe Capotondi alters time, continents and leading characters, but lifts its principal conceit directly from De Palma’s predecessor. Yet in doing so, Capotondi gives American audiences their first glimpse of two European actors with considerable appeal. Kseniya Rappoport, a Russian actress with an impressive list of film credits, plays Sonya, a chambermaid who meets ex-cop Guido (Filippo Timi) at a speed-dating event. Both are in their mid-30’s and lonely - - but not without the necessary personal charms to attract each other. After a brief series of dinner dates, Guido invites Sonya to spend the day with him at the private estate which employs him to act as a security guard. In the midst of a stroll through the electronically-monitored grounds, masked bandits with pistols savagely attack the couple and drag them into the lavishly appointed mansion which they methodically strip of its valuables. When one of the thugs tries to sexually assault Sonya, Guido intervenes and both are wounded. Grief-stricken, he enlists the assistance of a friend still on the force to dig into the robbery, which seems to have been carefully staged to occur precisely when Guido left the estate’s guard-room for his stroll in the woods with the enigmatic Sonya…

What follows involves twin versions of the same events  - - hence the title, which refers to those times of day when hours and minutes numerically coincide, i.e. 10:10, 11:11, etc. The audience is thus only gradually allowed to determine who’s actually telling the truth. Is Sonya the vulnerable victim of random violence or the lynchpin in caper with roots buried deeply in her past?

As Guido, Timi - - another Continental actor with a long list of Italian film credits - - exhibits just the right mixture of swaggering machismo and awkward sensitivity required of a rather cynical man who finds himself irresistibly drawn to the soft-spoken, but quietly compelling woman who steals his heart without his quite knowing how. But its Rappoport’s rather tortured Sonya who carries the storyline; is she victim - - or victimizer?

Absent prior exposure to De Palma’s film, Double Hour’s audience will probably give this film more praise than it’s due, but solid performances, skillful film-noir cinematography and a freshman director’s sure hand in pacing the film’s action make this a diverting hour and a half in the dark.

The Verdict? An entertaining re-tread, featuring a handsome cast of attractive, seasoned thespians.

 

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