out of five
: 125 mins
Impressive, disturbing French ‘true crime’ film with a stunning central performance - refreshingly different from the usual crop of serial killer flicks.
Writer-director Cedric Kahn’s (L’Ennui) Roberto Succo is an unusual serial killer film in that it studiously avoids the various paths taken by every other serial killer flick you’ve ever seen. This means: no painstaking detective work showing the cops identifying and then tracking their prey; a refusal to try and ‘explain’ the killer (it’s based on a true story); and, most importantly, the majority of the killings occur offscreen, so there’s no gruesome fetishisation of the murders themselves.
What’s left is a compelling, stark tale with no answers that is by turns fascinating and horrifying.
Newcomer Stefano Cassetti (who bears a strong resemblance to Vincent Gallo) plays Roberto, an extremely disturbed young man who brutally murdered his parents and was committed to an asylum. When he gets out, five years later, he embarks on a crime spree that includes murder, car jacking, rape, burglary etc.
The police are on his tail, but he continually eludes them with a string of false identities. However, somewhat surprisingly, in the midst of all this, he still manages to hold down a steady relationship with a sweetly naïve schoolgirl (Isild LeBesco, who bears a slight resemblance to Renée Zellweger).
It soon becomes clear that Roberto is a sociopathic fantasist, spinning lie upon lie to everyone he meets. As such, the crazier you realise he is, the scarier he becomes – his actions are infused with the unpredictable edge of the insane. Interestingly, however, he doesn’t kill everyone he meets, so with each new person he encounters, you’re left wondering whether or not they’ll make it, adding considerably to the tense atmosphere of the film.
It’s also not without humour – you soon realise that Succo’s crimes are
never thought out beforehand and this leads him to commit amusingly stupid acts. It’s also these elements that are reminiscent of other notably ‘different’ serial killer films, such as Man Bites Dog and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
The acting is impressive. LeBesco is fittingly sweet as Succo’s remarkably nonchalant girlfriend (she never seems to want to know where he’s been), but Cassetti is astonishing as Succo, giving an extraordinarily intense performance. The scene where he climbs onto the roof of the jail and passionately yells “No soy Roberto Succo!” (‘I’m not Roberto Succo!’) is a definite highlight.
In short, this is definitely worth seeing, not least for Cassetti’s
hypnotically compelling performance. In addition, the script is intelligent enough to let you draw your own conclusions and the film is all the better for it. Recommended.