As with split-second formalities of the titular dance, “Bolero” aspires to be an intricate, edge-of-your-seat murder mystery but ends up a pokey police procedural undone by an unwieldy cast and needlessly fussy lensing. Based on a 1976 investigation in the Slovak capital of Bratislava, pic is performing well at home but will be limited to regional play, some fest dates and modest ancillary.
Discovering a mess and a lone earring at his remote cottage, rich philanderer Aksman (Jiri Bartoska, real-life head of the Karlovy Vary fest) begins to suspect son Artur (David Kraus) is involved in the disappearance and murder of dancer Marika (Barbora Seidlova). Meanwhile, a police task force led by determined Hrazdira (Martin Stropnicky) uncovers parents shielding kids who participated in a sex party that led to the killing. Original story took place in the 1970s, but filmmakers have avoided any socialist political dimension by updating it to present-day Prague. Leached of politics, however, pic plays as foibles of rich and famous, with only Pavel Simcik’s gawky investigator standing out. Tech credits are annoyingly busy, with d.p.-turned-helmer F.A. Brabec’s jerky camerawork a major distraction to mood, pace and effect.