Musicvideo director Alex Infascelli graduates to features with the visually striking but pretentious and unevenly paced “Almost Blue,” adapted from the widely read neo-noir by novelist Carlo Lucarelli. Closer in spirit to serial-killer chillers like “Seven” and “The Cell” than to anything else currently coming out of Italy, the film’s manicured grunge aesthetic, creepy atmosphere and flashy stylistic touches at least make it notable as a step outside the timid parameters of an industry that’s in a creative slump. This fact may boost its commercial fortunes locally.
Taking its cue from the Elvis Costello song of the title, thriller focuses on three characters. One is blind electronics whiz Simone (Claudio Santamaria), who visualizes the voices on computer chat lines as colors. His interception of online banter becomes the key to tracing Alessio (Rolando Ravello), a twentysomething spook with an abused childhood behind him, who leaves a trail of gruesomely butchered Bologna students as he slips chameleonlike into each of their identities while searching for one that fits.
Heading the investigation is twitchy, intense detective Grazia Negro (Lorenza Indovina), who looks like a cross between Amanda Plummer and a frightened rabbit. Somewhat incredibly — given the sketchy information available — she pieces together the scenario.
The liters of blood, torn body piercings, random mutilation and nifty razor work on display make this a graphically unpleasant tale, which would be fine if the story were more nuanced and the tension successfully built and maintained. But Infascelli, who also co-scripted, makes the odd choice of starting at a machine-gun pace and then decreasing speed as the climax lumbers into view.
Decked out with a soundtrack of cranked-up noise and music and visual flourishes that border at times on self-conscious hipness, the film nonetheless represents a strong debut on the technical side and a rare example of an Italian thriller that feels like it’s conceived for the bigscreen and not for TV. Arnaldo Catinari’s limber, virtuoso camerawork and moody use of color are pluses.