Pic version of Massimo Carlotto’s cult pulp novel, “The Goodbye Kiss,” emerges as only an OK crimer about a cold-blooded killer. Four scripters have trimmed the misogyny, reined in the societal implications, added a dash of sympathy and wound up excising the book’s bite. While retaining the original’s episodic nature, helmer Michele Soavi’s film loses the connecting thrust. Largely well-cast pic never goes far enough, including at the local B.O., where opening week numbers proved disappointing for the Feb. 24 release.
Hailed for his scathing portrayals of an Italy wallowing in corruption, Carlotto brings a nasty edge to “The Goodbye Kiss,” whose Italian title “Arrivederci amore, ciao” derives from Caterina Caselli’s 1960s pop song. Soavi uses the music as a connecting device throughout the movie, but the real driving force behind the fragmented narrative comes from the protag’s unblinking pursuit of legal rehabilitation that’s presented as the pinnacle of system-wide cynicism.
Opportunistic leftist Giorgio (Alessio Boni) has been hiding out in the Central American jungle ever since a bomb he set off back home killed a passerby. Tired of life as a cohort to guerrillas for whom he feels no affinity, he returns to Italy to seek legal rehabilitation.
Giorgio turns squealer for corrupt cop Anedda (Michele Placido) and reduces his jail term. Once out, he screws over a strip-club boss while scamming a local shoe store owner whose wife, Flora (Isabella Ferrari), agrees to bed him until a debt is paid off.
But these are small pickings for the ambitious Giorgio, who next clues Anedda in to a high-profile heist that nets them a small fortune once they’ve picked off their accomplices. Flush with cash, Giorgio is guided by crooked lawyer Brianese (Carlo Cecchi) to an outwardly honest life, but loose ends make the process more complicated than anticipated.
As fleshed-out in the novel’s terse, first-person narrative, Giorgio is without guilt or conscience, and everyone around him is morally compromised. But director/co-adaptor Soavi wants to give the protag a sense of shame — or at least a haunted sense of culpability — so Giorgio’s cruelty is less spectacular than in the book. Notably missing from the film is “the widow,” an over-the-hill gangster’s moll whose degrading treatment is one of the most troubling, and unforgettable, aspects of the novel.
Her absence is partly made up for by the underutilized Isabella Ferrari (“Love Me”), a perfect film noir dame whose disappearance prior to the halfway mark leaves a major gap. Boni (“The Best of Youth”) certainly looks the part of the handsome and ruthless Giorgio, his steely face all too aware of the power he generally wields but lacks in his relationship with Anedda.
Soavi, a former assistant to Dario Argento and with a number of film and TV credits under his belt, utilizes dark and probing lensing, tracking down people like animals but shying away from making the camera a real player in the action.