Mordburo

Groundbreaking yet subtle special effects fail to rescue "Mordburo," an atmospheric hodgepodge that revolves around a secret vigilante organization whose founder decides to put an end to the group's activities along with all its members. Evocative post-industrial settings in Sofia and a moody score that's more coherent than the narrative are pluses, but ponderous tale is too arbitrary-cum-artsy to do much theatrical business.

With:
Madame Behar ..... Ornella Muti KMB/Mr. Jean ..... Philippe Clevenot Inspector Raoul ..... Patrick Catalifo Leo Stoychev ..... Maurice Benichou Eugene ..... Dominique Pinon Branco ..... Herve Briaux

Groundbreaking yet subtle special effects fail to rescue “Mordburo,” an atmospheric hodgepodge that revolves around a secret vigilante organization whose founder decides to put an end to the group’s activities along with all its members. Evocative post-industrial settings in Sofia and a moody score that’s more coherent than the narrative are pluses, but ponderous tale is too arbitrary-cum-artsy to do much theatrical business.

That’s a shame, because pic’s widescreen imagery was originated on film, then digitized from end to end, computer-enhanced frame by frame and transferred back to celluloid, also a frame at a time. The result is a cross between “City of Lost Children”–style gloom and the output of a renegade color photocopier with its muddy greens and rusty yellows cranked up. Strange but never unfamiliar backdrops suggest a place where momentous and eerie things could happen but, alas, don’t.

In sonorous voiceover KMB (Philippe Clevenot) explains that he started the Mordburo (a made-up term that presumably translates as “Death Bureau”) to rid the city of unscrupulous scum. A mock trial precedes each victim’s execution, preferably in some creepy locale. Merciless by night, the Mordburo is made up of men who pursue unassuming trades by day: tailor, tram conductor, pharmacist, etc.

Honest woodworker Leo Stoychev (Maurice Benichou) applies to the group for help because his boss, Branco, won’t repay a hefty personal loan and may have had a hand in an accident that crippled Leo. Last hour of pic follows the cast’s only quasi-suspenseful meanderings through an ultimately tedious game of cat and mouse.

Meanwhile, Madame Behar (Ornella Muti) makes herself out to be “a simple housewife” who enjoyed looking after her much older, dumpy husband, a crooked lawyer dispatched by the Mordburo. Smitten by the fetching widow, Inspector Raoul (Patrick Catalifo) sets out to prove that her husband was no angel and his death no accident. The lovely Muti exudes a frustrating blend of the naive and enigmatic in the midst of theatrical mugs who look like they’re up to no good and act up a storm.

Krishna Levy’s tingly incidental score ranges from Stravinsky Lite to Bernard Herrmann-ish chords. Willfully seedy production design and innovative effects work are spiffy but hardly worth the effort given the material’s dramatic shortcomings.

Debuting helmer Lionel Kopp is co-founder, with d.p. Dominique Colin, of f/x and optical house Les Trois Lumieres, which has perfected illusions and widescreen processes for David Lynch, David Fincher, Lars Von Trier and Darius Khondji, among others. Effects house Duboi (“City of Lost Children,” “Grosse Fatigue,” “Alien Resurrection”) created so-called “digital Technicolor” for the film.

Mordburo

(FRENCH-BELGIAN-BULGARIAN-ITALIAN)

Production: A Eurozoom/La Compagnie des Films release (in France) of a Trois Lumieres presentation of a Trois Lumieres Prods. (Paris)/Les Films de l'Etaing, Image Creation (Brussels)/Vitec (Sofia)/AB Cinema (Rome) production, in association with Les Films Ariane, La Compagnie des Films, Florida Movies, Les Films en Hiver, Le Club Media and Duboi, with participation of CNC and Canal Plus. Produced by France Berthou. Co-executive producers, Bruno Hodebert, Lionel Kopp. Directed by Lionel Kopp. Screenplay, Patrick Lambert, Kopp. Camera (digital Colincolor, widescreen), Dominique Colin; editor, Alice Lary; music, Krishna Levy; art direction, Francois Renaud Labarthe; costume design, Ounie Lecomte; sound (Dolby SR), Jean-Pierre Laforge, Jerome Thiault, Olivier Dohuu; digital image reprocessing, Duboi (Antoine Simkin, Jean-Clement-Soret); associate producers, Laurent Piketty, Didier Diaz; assistant director, Olivier Thery-Lapiney. Reviewed at 7 Parnassiens Cinema, Paris, July 15, 1997. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Madame Behar ..... Ornella Muti KMB/Mr. Jean ..... Philippe Clevenot Inspector Raoul ..... Patrick Catalifo Leo Stoychev ..... Maurice Benichou Eugene ..... Dominique Pinon Branco ..... Herve Briaux

More Film

  • ABBA performing as an unknown band

    The Secret Majesty of ABBA: They Were the Feminine Pop Opera of Their Time

    Groundbreaking yet subtle special effects fail to rescue “Mordburo,” an atmospheric hodgepodge that revolves around a secret vigilante organization whose founder decides to put an end to the group’s activities along with all its members. Evocative post-industrial settings in Sofia and a moody score that’s more coherent than the narrative are pluses, but ponderous tale […]

  • Dwayne Johnson's 'Skyscraper' Leads China Box

    China Box Office Propels 'Skyscraper' to $75 Million Overseas

    Groundbreaking yet subtle special effects fail to rescue “Mordburo,” an atmospheric hodgepodge that revolves around a secret vigilante organization whose founder decides to put an end to the group’s activities along with all its members. Evocative post-industrial settings in Sofia and a moody score that’s more coherent than the narrative are pluses, but ponderous tale […]

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    Box Office: 'Equalizer 2' Narrowly Edges Past 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' to Land at No. 1

    Groundbreaking yet subtle special effects fail to rescue “Mordburo,” an atmospheric hodgepodge that revolves around a secret vigilante organization whose founder decides to put an end to the group’s activities along with all its members. Evocative post-industrial settings in Sofia and a moody score that’s more coherent than the narrative are pluses, but ponderous tale […]

  • Durban FilmMart Celebrates Women as Industry

    Durban FilmMart Celebrates Women as Industry Still Struggles With Transformation

    Groundbreaking yet subtle special effects fail to rescue “Mordburo,” an atmospheric hodgepodge that revolves around a secret vigilante organization whose founder decides to put an end to the group’s activities along with all its members. Evocative post-industrial settings in Sofia and a moody score that’s more coherent than the narrative are pluses, but ponderous tale […]

  • MayFair, directed by Sara Blecher

    Sara Blecher’s ‘Mayfair’ Brings Feminine Gaze to Gangster Tale

    Groundbreaking yet subtle special effects fail to rescue “Mordburo,” an atmospheric hodgepodge that revolves around a secret vigilante organization whose founder decides to put an end to the group’s activities along with all its members. Evocative post-industrial settings in Sofia and a moody score that’s more coherent than the narrative are pluses, but ponderous tale […]

  • Todd Brown, XYZ Films

    African Finance Under Spotlight at Durban FilmMart  

    Groundbreaking yet subtle special effects fail to rescue “Mordburo,” an atmospheric hodgepodge that revolves around a secret vigilante organization whose founder decides to put an end to the group’s activities along with all its members. Evocative post-industrial settings in Sofia and a moody score that’s more coherent than the narrative are pluses, but ponderous tale […]

  • Ryan Reynolds'Deadpool' panel, Comic-Con International, San

    Ryan Reynolds Wants to Explore Deadpool's Bisexuality in Future Films

    Groundbreaking yet subtle special effects fail to rescue “Mordburo,” an atmospheric hodgepodge that revolves around a secret vigilante organization whose founder decides to put an end to the group’s activities along with all its members. Evocative post-industrial settings in Sofia and a moody score that’s more coherent than the narrative are pluses, but ponderous tale […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content