After establishing major action chops with an opening that finds Mafia bodyguard/hitman Salvo (Saleh Bakri) singlehandedly taking out the members of a double-pronged attack on his boss, debuting directors Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza switch gears, turning this Palermo-set gang rivalry story into a deliberately paced, mesmerizing art-house character piece. Hunting down the man behind the assassination attempt, Salvo sneaks into his house and finds a kid sister counting stacks of cash. Vision-impaired to near blindness, she doesn’t see him, but feels a presence just as her brother comes in. The rest of the film, which reaches unexpectedly intense levels of slow-burn suspense & romance, plays out in a laconic fog of unspoken emotions that are allowed to frustrate (make that encouraged to frustrate) in near dialogue-free episodes before things begin adding up, seemingly without external prompts, to deepening dramatic satisfaction. And if the relationship struggles between Salvo and the blind woman (Sara Serraicco) lean toward classic ‘two-handers,’ Grassadonia & Piazza, who also co-scripted, neatly stir in a host of vivid characterizations beyond those contours. Especially in a mother/son pair of caretakers who worry over Salvo’s lack of appetite when they aren’t informing on his behavior or fixating on his lean handsome form.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: This is what Nicolas Winding Refn (DRIVE/’11) thinks he’s up to.
DOUBLE-BILL: Unsentimental in the real world, hitmen often fall for their targets in the movies. Try Ophüls' THE RECKLESS MOMENT/’49 with Joan Bennett in pearls & white gloves and James Mason worrying about her smoking habits.