Vatican villainy is the background to spirited but flawed low-budget thriller “White Smoke,” the sophomore outing by director Miguel Garcia Borda. Tackiness is limited by virtue of several good perfs (particularly from veteran Jose Sacristan), a satisfyingly complex plot and just enough brio to keep the multiple implausibilities at a distance. Commercial prospects are slim, but genre sidebars at fests could be interested.
Innocent priest Father Michael (Adria Collado) is sent from Rome to Barcelona to keep an eye on Cardinal Giovanello (Hector Alterio), a future papal candidate, during a religious conference. Giovanello has information linking the Vatican to the Nazis; when he disappears, Michael turns to his detective father (Sacristan) for help. Soon, journalist Ana Caligaro (Cayetana Guillen Cuervo) is also is involved in the mystery. Strongest scenes, which seem to belong to another pic entirely, are the showdowns between the mutually distrustful detective father and priest son, as the latter’s religious faith unravels. Sacristan, returning to film after lengthy layoff, steals most of his scenes. Dialogue is occasionally in Italian.