The important and intriguing issue of classified global audio surveillance of private citizens is all but garbled in “The Listening.” Although pic intends to expose the U.S.’ top-secret National Security Agency and its corporate liaisons, tyro helmer and co-writer Giacomo Martelli fashions a pointlessly untraceable plot that will have even hardcore spy movie mavens scratching their noggins. With star roles for the estimable Michael Parks and Maya Sansa, the handsome Italian-made, English-language thriller opened in Italy last spring and will dash to vid hideouts following a brief Stateside run.
After an awkward intro explaining the Echelon audio surveillance network built in the 1990s, story properly begins with NSA spy James (Parks) caught up in a hunt for folks who apparently stole sensitive documents. Trail leads to a Rome art gallery staffer, Francesca (Sansa, “Good Morning, Night”), who’s tortured for info she may have. Smarmy exec Ashe (James Parks, Michael’s son) runs private software firm whose programs fuel Echelon, and acts like he runs the NSA. James goes undercover to expose Ashe’s creations, in a progressively crazed plot that leads to shootouts on the slopes of Mont Blanc.