An art authenticator runs the risk of being framed while verifying several near-priceless paintings in Venice-set “Tempesta.” Watchable, attractively made tale of art-based detective work has way more sex and nearly as many murders as “The Da Vinci Code” without a speck of dreary religious speculation. Forgery is the theme, but making a wildly implausible narrative stick together just long enough to reach the finale is helmer Tim Disney’s mostly met goal. Venice looks great, and modest international bookings look likely. Sometimes stilted but entertaining pic will play on cable for as long as the city boasts gondoliers.
Art appraiser Patrick Donovan (Scot Williams), a young American who works for an insurance firm, arrives in rainy Venice where rising waters threaten the collection at the Galleria dell’Accademia. Via photogenic hocus pocus, Patrick confirms two Bellinis are authentic. But before he gets to examine Giorgione’s legendary canvas, “The Tempest,” the painting is stolen by bad guys who overcome the museum’s devoted director Allart Van Beunigen (Rutger Hauer).
Between Dina, the seductive clerk at Patrick’s hotel (Valentina Cervi); Van Beunigen’s fetching daughter, Chiara (Natalia Verbeke), an art restorer who is passionately involved with the much older local personality Paul Valenzin (Malcolm McDowell); Paul’s creepy messenger boy Tedeschi (Gaetano Carotenuto); menacing ultra-wealthy art collector Taddeo Rossi (Paul Guilfoyle); and a police inspector (Yura Marin) who thinks Patrick is implicated in a series of grisly murders, it’s a wonder the callow Yank can concentrate on pigments, fibers and the like.
Patrick’s life soon resembles a game of speed chess played during Carnival, with opportunities for professional and personal corruption as prevalent as cheap, glass-blown animals. Most guys would question the reliability of a lovely young woman who is sexually available again less than 48 hours after her lover is found with an ice pick lodged in his brain, but Patrick apparently likes to keep busy when on overseas assignment. Maybe he should have watched Nicolas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now” before he boarded the plane for Italy.
Williams is very much the innocent abroad, Verbeke adds an exotic touch and Hauer, McDowell and Guilfoyle impart class and menace as required. The trappings of wealth and power and art-world intrigue ring close enough to true, but the whole police set-up is laughable. HD-to-35 blow-up looks very nice.