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MOVIE REVIEW
The Double Hour (2009)

The-double-hour-la-doppia-ora-ksenia-rappoport-filippo-timi
Samuel Goldwyn Films

A patron found himself rained in at New York’s Quad Cinema without an umbrella amid the unexpected showers on June 9, so he saw three films in a row that afternoon. Upon exiting “The Double Hour,” he asked if the usher had seen it. Much as he enjoyed the film, the patron said he didn’t get it. The usher concurred and referred him to photocopies of a write-up, saying he liked it but wasn’t much into reading (i.e. the subtitles) at the movies. If you feel the way they did, you’re in luck! Here’s a very service-y review complete with spoilers, so you can discuss the film in an educated way with your very cultured friends and feel infinitely superior.

In spite of its Italian origin, “The Double Hour” actually hails from the M. Night Shyamalan/Alejandro Amenábar school of unreliable narrators and if-you-blink-you-miss plots circa the 1990s. Thus, this review will divulge privileged information withheld from viewers during the first two-thirds of the movie and disseminate it in chronological order. If you haven’t seen the film, please consider yourself warned.

Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport of “The Unknown Women”) has left Slovenia for Italy and the home of her Italian father. After she and her boyfriend Marco (Edoardo La Scala) have robbed her father blind, Sonia has fled to Turin to work as a hotel maid. A mansion with an extensive art collection is the next target for the criminal lovers looking to permanently escape Italy for Argentina. Again, the film doesn’t even hint at any backstory until well into the second act.

Instead, the story begins with Sonia at a speed-dating event attempting to charm the cagey Guido (Filippo Timi of “Vincere”), who we eventually learn is the security guard for the mansion she and Marco want to rob. As a seemingly genuine relationship between them develops, Guido invites Sonia out to the mansion where Marco and his men soon interrupt them. But as Marco pretends to molest his “hostage” Sonia, Guido jumps on the perp and Marco’s gun goes off. A stray bullet hits Sonia’s skull and renders her comatose.

The unreliable-narrator trope goes into full effect in the second act as the film presents Sonia’s very vivid hallucinations while she is in a coma. During these protracted “dream” sequences, Sonia is haunted by Guido’s ghost — which misleads viewers into thinking that he has died in the heist when in reality he has survived, although we won’t learn this until the final act. Guido’s cop buddy Dante (Michele Di Mauro) also appears here to conjure up Sonia’s shady past. Everything ultimately turns out to be just Sonia’s guilty conscience playing tricks on her.

When Sonia finally awakens from her coma, Guido and Dante have already pieced the puzzle together. But because Guido loves Sonia so much, he willingly looks the other way in hopes that their relationship is legitimate. But after spending a night with Guido, Sonia rejoins Marco next morning and they leave for Argentina.

While the twists and turns in “The Double Hour” indeed achieve the level of Messrs. Shyamalan and Amenábar in top form, they nevertheless reek of gimmickry. As with Mr. Amenábar, the film’s writers seem to have belabored over this with a Hollywood remake in mind. “The Double Hour” ultimately becomes such a mechanical exercise that one’s not sure if even its director Guiseppe Capotondi cares whether Guido and Sonia have a real thing going. Too bad, then, as the answer to that question might salvage the film.

THE DOUBLE HOUR

Opened on April 15 in Manhattan.

Directed by Giuseppe Capotondi; written by Alessandro Fabbri, Ludovica Rampoldi and Stefano Sardo; director of photography, Tat Radcliffe; edited by Guido Notari; music by Pasquale Catalano; production design by Totoi Santoro; costumes by Roberto Chiocchi; produced by Nicola Giuliano and Francesca Cima; released by Samuel Goldwyn Films. In Italian, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Ksenia Rappoport (Sonia), Filippo Timi (Guido), Antonia Truppo (Margherita), Gaetano Bruno (Riccardo), Fausto Russo Alesi (Bruno), Michele Di Mauro (Dante), Lucia Poli (Marisa) and Giorgio Colangeli (Old Priest).

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