Pierfrancesco Favino in Adagio (2023)

‘Adagio’ movie review: Pierfrancesco Favino smolders in Stefano Sollima’s hot-blooded crime drama

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As fires rage on the outskirts of Rome during an unbearably hot summer, long-dormant mafia tensions are unexpectedly re-ignited in Adagio, which premiered in competition at last year’s Venice Film Festival and is now streaming on Netflix in the Czech Republic. First-rate performances from some of Italy’s top actors dominate this striking crime drama from director Stefano Sollima.

But what initially feels like a no-nonsense, cold-blooded thriller along the lines of director Sollima’s previous work, including Hollywood features like Sicario: Day of the Soldado and Without Remorse, is given unusually elegiac overtones. The deliberate pacing and melancholic score match Adagio‘s title but contrast with its narrative, generating some evocative results underscored by the visuals of ash-filled skies and rolling blackouts.

Adagio opens with striking aerial night footage of Rome as fires rage on the outskirts of the city and the city suddenly plunges into darkness, only illuminated by the lights of cars racing down its highways. The narrative unfolds over the course of 24 hours, and we’re always aware of the effects of mother nature on its characters, often shirtless and dripping with sweat, behind oscillating fans in an attempt to relieve themselves of the brutal summer heat.

The film opens with young Manuel (Gianmarco Franchini), who leaves his dementia-afflicted former mafioso father Daytona (Toni Servillo) with a Rubik’s Cube as he heads out to go clubbing. But he’s not just having fun: it soon becomes apparent that Manuel has been blackmailed by police to help capture evidence of impropriety – drugs and underage boys – at a party hosted by an important official.

When Manuel discovers hidden cameras, he gets scared off and runs to dad’s old mafia friend for help. But the blind Polniuman (amusingly pronounced ‘Paul Newman’, and played by Valerio Mastandrea) in turn sends him to another associate, the gruff Cammello (Pierfrancesco Favino) for assistance.

Just two problems. The trio of cops behind the sting, led by Vasco (Adriano Giannini), aren’t exactly on the level and will dispose of Manuel rather than risk him exposing their operation. And unknown to Manuel, Cammello is no longer a friend of his father: Daytona’s actions resulted in the death of his son and a 12-year prison sentence.

Favino, shorn of his thick head of hair and even eyebrows, is almost completely unrecognizable as the long-suffering Cammello, who has little to look forward to beyond his own death. The actor has had featured roles in Hollywood movies like Rush and Angels & Demons, but blends into the background among Rome’s lost souls with surprising ease. Favino’s smoldering performance, which comes alive through his scenes with the young boy, helps sell Adagio‘s central themes of hope and redemption in an unforgiving environment.

Servillo (The Great Beauty, Il Divo) is likewise excellent as the father, whose troubled past is now masked by dementia. But as the affliction “comes and goes”, Adagio seems to be hinting that it might all be a Vincent Gigante-like ruse. Giannini, too, has commanding screen presence as the central figure driving the narrative, a corrupt cop trying to cover his tracks and making everything worse in the process.

Adagio is the third film in director Sollima’s trilogy of crime films set in Rome and starring Favino following ACAB – All Cops Are Bastards and Suburra, and doesn’t quite reach the hard-hitting highs of the latter. The almost-wistful overtones give it a unique atmosphere, but a sharper score and tighter pacing could have elevated Adagio to the levels of the director’s best work, which includes TV series like Gomorrah and ZeroZeroZero. Of course, then it might need to be called Allegro.

Still, first-rate work from the entire cast and a sure hand behind the camera make Adagio a memorable experience. This one has dropped on Netflix with little fanfare following the streaming network’s well-received series based on Sollima’s Suburra (Suburra: Blood on Rome), but it’s well worth checking out for fans of the director and contemporary Italian cinema.

Adagio

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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