An inert drama about a multiple murder and the prime suspect's obsession with one of the victims, "Uninvited" marks an inauspicious feature directing debut for Carlo Gabriel Nero, despite help from his folks, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero, and other seasoned thesps in supporting roles. It's basically substandard cable fare, and commercial prospects appear slim.

An inert drama about a multiple murder and the prime suspect’s obsession with one of the victims, “Uninvited” marks an inauspicious feature directing debut for Carlo Gabriel Nero, despite help from his folks, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero, and other seasoned thesps in supporting roles. It’s basically substandard cable fare, and commercial prospects appear slim.

Adapted by Nero Jr. from the novel by James Gabriel Berman, the story takes place in a New York State island community, which is shocked by news of the brutal killing of a local businessman, his wife Patricia and their children. An unpopular loner whose unrequited passion for Patricia stretched from childhood through their teen years into adulthood, Tony Grasso (Kevin Isola) is accused of the murders and arrested on circumstantial evidence.

Uninterested in whether he committed the crimes, Tony’s slick Italian lawyer (Nero Sr.) concentrates only on mounting a convincing story, leading his client back over key periods in his life and through events on the night of the murders.

The drama is clumsily structured with jumbled flashbacks. Its most cogent passages are those centering on the adolescent Tony — sensitively played by Adam Hann-Byrd — as he fixates on popular high school beauty Patricia (Jessica Munch). Elsewhere, the director fails to create tension or to establish a uniform performance style, with the actors veering all over the map.

Appearing not entirely comfortable with the English dialogue, Franco Nero (also a producer) has perhaps the most ineptly written role in a generally heavy-handed script. Redgrave also comes off unflatteringly, overplaying young Tony’s schoolteacher in an incongruously comic vein, while other cast members, including Eli Wallach, leave little impression.

In the pivotal role of Tony as an adult, Isola is ineffectual. Often murky and underlit, the production has the appearance of a low-budget venture, frequently shot in confined spaces in which the camera has no room to maneuver.

Uninvited

(DRAMA -- U.S.-ITALIAN)

Production

A Franco Nero/Francesco Papa presentation of a Barolo Films (New York)/No Limit Intl. (Rome) production in association with Mediaset. (International sales: Image Design Entertainment, Los Angeles.) Produced by Nero, Papa, Paul Stephen Mezey. Directed, written by Carlo Gabriel Nero, based on the novel by James Gabriel Berman. Camera (Cinecitta color), Giancarlo Ferrando; editor, Paolo Benassi; music, Carlo Siliotto; production designer, Jessica Shaw; costume designer, Lauren Press; sound, Skeeter Jarvis; casting, Jordan Beswick. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Open Zone), Sept. 19, 1999. (Also in Taormina Film Festival.) Running time: 112 MIN.

With

Tony Grasso ..... Kevin Isola Young Tony Grasso ..... Adam Hann-Byrd Vincent Grasso ..... Stephen Mendillo Rose Grasso ..... Patricia Dunnock Strasser ..... Eli Wallach Barolo ..... Franco Nero Mrs. Ruttenburn ..... Vanessa Redgrave
With: Olivia Birkelund, Barton Tinapp, Jessica Munch, Jennifer Wiltsie, Nick Sandow, Bethel Leslie.
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