Luigi Lo Cascio
José Ángel Egido
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Eyes of Crystal (2004)
11th Dec 06
Inspector Giacomo Amaldi is both a busy and troubled man. Whilst he investigates a grizzly triple homicide he is also wrestling with a deep seeded personal issue (that you just KNOW is going to come out in the wash along the way). The thing is that this particular murderer he is looking out for has a habit of chopping parts of his victims and replacing their limbs with a similar part from a Victorian sex doll.
Saddled with a fairly inept partner (who also has some of the scariest hairiest shoulders EVER depicted in a feature film), Amaldi also has the small concern of trying to protect a stunning-looking student in the shape of Lucia Jimenez (Desislava Tenekedjieva) who has a stalker problem.
The investigation takes an interesting turn when it appears that a colleague with a brain tumor just might know the all the answers to the questions Amaldi is looking for.
Sometimes a movie pops along that completely and unexpectedly enthralls and enraptures you. Eyes of Crystal is one such movie. From the very moment we see someone in the shadows inject a live squirrel, before removing its entrails and then set about stuffing it as another piece to place with other stuffed beasties on the end of a series of beds, you are hooked.
Kicking off with a fast paced opening chase scene that climaxes with young cop Amaldi surprisingly shooting a rapist in the kneecap we know that the gloves are off. Director Eros Puglielli’s big screen version of the novel by Luca Di Fulvio, scripted by Dario Argento regular Franco Ferrini, plays with the conventions of the serial killer genre and comes up with the best of it’s type since David Fincher’s Se7en. Indeed some of Puglielli’s styling feels like a nod to that movie, especially THAT scene where they all need really BIG torches.
Through excellent performances, nifty camerawork – a nice use of reflections in windows crank up the tension - an unsettling score, and some terrific production design Eyes of Crystal grips throughout. Tense and with constantly surprising refreshing clichés, it turns the standard serial killer movie inside out, only ever pausing for the central couple to have some rumpy pumpy.
Eyes of Crystal is considered to be a return to form for the gialli genre that, with the exception of the likes of Dario Argento’s flawed and typically misogynistic 2001 serial killer flick Non ho Sonno (a.k.a. ‘Sleepless’) had not really seen any proper life since 1987’s Opera (a.k.a. Terror at the Opera’), again Argento. There is also a nice nod to classic gialli by having Amaldi’s dying cop buddy Agent Ajaccio played by Simon Andreu (Death Walks at Midnight, 1972 and Death Carries a Cane, 1973).
Luigi Lo Cascio is excellent as Amaldi, never once failing to convince as he follows the trail of clues to the killer. No deduction he makes ever sounds contrived or random but rather well-considered and intelligent. He FEELS real given the level of writing and depth afforded from dialogue and performance.
The killings are shown on-screen, but are never gratuitous, meaning they are pleasantly nasty without over-egging the cake. Each scene is carefully paced, exacting the right amount of chills in the build up, showing enough but never dwelling unnecessarily.
Unfortunately, the film does come to quite a disappointing audience-friendly ending which, considering the build-up, just kind of felt wrong. It would have been far better had it been far nastier, leaving the viewer numb from the overbearing bleakness of it all. It’s a big shame as everything up until then was pointing to a rather rare (for me) five star rating.