Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Jan Decleir as Angelo Ledda
Photo: Sofie Silberman

Directed by: Erik Van Looy.
Produced by: Erwin Provoost & Hilde De Laere.
Written by: Carl Joos & Erik Van Looy, based on the novel The Alzheimer Case by Jef Geeraerts
Director of Photography: Danny Elsen.
Edited by: Philippe Ravoet.
Music by: Stephen Warbeck.
Released by: Sony Pictures Classics.
Language: Dutch & French with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: Belgium/Netherlands. 123 min. Rated: R.
With: Koen De Bouw, Werner De Smedt, Jan Decleir, Hilde De Baerdemaeker & Jo De Meyere.

Belgium viewers of this crime thriller would have undoubtedly been reminded of serial killer Marc Dutroux. The ringleader of an international child prostitution and pornography ring, Dutroux was convicted of kidnapping, torturing and sexually abusing six girls, ages 8 to 19 (four of whom died), in the mid-'90s. The flagrant negligence and incompetence of governmental officials and the police, who ignored a tip from an informant and Dutroux's own mother, led to the reorganization of the country's law enforcement agencies. Adding fuel to the media fire were rumors of Dutroux's involvement with a satanic network of pedophiles, allegedly including members of the country's elite.

In the sock-'em opening sequence set in Antwerp in 1995, a police sting targeting child prostitution melts down, leading to bloodshed. While in Marseilles, an aging hit man, Angelo Ledda (Jan Decleir), is coerced into a lucrative assignment. Soon after Ledda's arrival in his native Antwerp, a prominent city politician disappears, but when Ledda aims his gun at his next target, he's repelled - the victim-to-be is a 12-year-old girl. Turning the tables on his clients, he pursues his own crusade for justice. Ledda's a hit man with honor. As the body count rises, detective Erik Vincke is always a few steps behind in figuring out the big picture. (He was also one of the cops involved the film's initial ill-timed shootout). As played by Koen De Bouw, a leaner, sad-eyed Antonio Banderas, Eric is the cat to Ledda's mouse.

Implausibly, Ledda jumps out of a window and tackles men half his age, while being in his mid-sixties and showing early signs of Alzheimer's. As he's the only one holding all the pieces to the puzzle, he becomes a sitting duck for the film's monstrous villain, Baron Gustave De Haeck, who originally hired Ledda to do his dirty work. He resides in a formidable chateau fortress stuffed with Catholic iconography; he crosses himself after hearing an archrival has been murdered. With a receding hairline, bespectacled, and a small chin, actor Jo De Meyere is a perfectly-cast weasel. Even if clues are as glaring as a neon sign, the baron is so despicable the ending becomes compelling, and the fact Ledda has made spent a lifetime killing people for hire eventually is overlooked. Let's hope that another import, the taut and nerve-racking French cop drama, 36 Quai des Orfèvres, with Gérard Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil no less, will finally see the light of day in the US. Kent Turner
August 26, 2005



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