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‘Until the last clue’: how to waste Denzel Washington, Jared Leto and Rami Malek in a thriller that goes astray

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It no longer surprises anyone that the so-called brutal and bloody stories true crime and their fictional counterparts – those genre films with dead and missing women, troubled detectives, family mourning – are not only now considered full-fledged entertainment products, but for many they are even the ideal titles to have a quiet time with. evening on the sofa. I do not make a moral question of it, far from it: discovering the truth, as the protagonist of one of these films would do, certainly makes certain horrors more tolerable. The violence of these events, the madness of these investigations, the danger always around the corner: whether it is thirst for justice or horrifying thrill, everything drags us into these stories, even if we don’t always want to admit it.

All this to say that a thriller like Until the last clue by John Lee Hancock (available in Italy from March 5 in streaming on demand, ed) knows this is his mission, and he does it pretty well. It is also a pure entertainment product. And it’s a pretty weird movie, not just because of its cast. There is the classic case to be solved. And most importantly, there is the perfectly choreographed dance between a detective, a former detective (now sheriff) and a man suspected of being a serial killer, played – not necessarily in that order – by Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto. .

One of these three men is not like the others, and I am obviously not referring to the alleged killer. I’m talking about Denzel. We quickly discover that his Deke Deacon is the sheriff of the situation: deputy, sorry. And that the change of status and district – from a Los Angeles detective to a simple Kent County cop – hides a dark past. Few actors are capable of making a small thing interesting, and Washington is one of them. He is the kind of performer who can take a repetitive script, line up in a clear and didactic way all the information necessary to make you understand the psychological arc of his character, and still manage to move you. So, yes: Dake is still suffering the trauma of a case gone wrong – the murder of two women that cost him not only the suspension from the service, but also the divorce from his wife (and the removal from his two now adult daughters) – but also the after-effects of a heart attack. It really is too much. But thanks to Denzel, we still manage to have fun (not “have fun” in that sense: I mean what I said in the introduction).

It is more curious, if anything, to try to understand the nature of the other two. If you were to roll at random, which of the two do you think plays the alleged killer: Leto or Malek? (Don’t go Google.) The craziest thing of Until the last clue is that two of its three protagonists are utterly incapable of playing the Everyman, the respectable detective assigned to the case. On the contrary, they are very good at putting the right nuances in the portrait of the serial killer: it is a compliment, since often the casting of those roles does not work as it should. Leto is almost always characterized, also because of its outward traits, like the Bad Buy: and not only for the 70s guru hair. His characters often have a difficult past that creeps into the present, and almost always unclear intentions. It is not difficult to imagine a version of the film in which the parts of Leto and Malek are reversed.

Which is what kept my attention throughout a well-directed but not exactly original film. In Until the last clue, Malek’s Jimmy Baxter is the upstart detective and Leto’s Albert Sparma is the crazy-looking suspect. But it’s Deke’s past – and the weight Denzel puts into this man’s portrayal, asking to be able to return to the old LA ghosts and be assigned to a case he doesn’t need to follow – that captivates the viewer. . All the other scenes, where you can’t help but look at Malek sideways or wonder if Leto’s guilt isn’t just apparent – he could be just any fool! – instead they make you believe that the film simply goes astray.

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Jared Leto is the alleged serial killer Albert Sparma. Photo: Warner Bros.

The film is full of captions placed in front to make you understand everything you are watching. You hear lines like, “It’s the little things that matter, Jimmy. It’s the little things that set you up “(the original title is The Little Things, ndt). You listen to these revealing phrases with the same perplexity with which you are shown the connection between a leftover pizza and the origins of the serial killer. You already know that, at the crime scene, the director will linger on the bloodstains; that the women killed will obviously be naked; that there is always a hint of sexual perversion behind everything.

The wild card to play, however, is always the actors and the strange energy they bring into the story. Towards the end of this “two men and a killer” movie, it is inevitable to make a comparison with Seven by David Fincher. It is more than just a comparison: it is as if this film prostrates itself in front of him. And there is also something of the atmospheres of Zodiac and of Mindhunter (RIP), also by Fincher. Which reveals even more the limits of this film.

Even if the comparison with Seven it is evident, what matters – and it costs to have to admit it – are the little things. The trio of protagonists have good chemistry, which is not always compensated for by the film itself. Until the last clue ends up being the “movie of the week” to be watched casually from the sofa. It might even be enough, if its protagonists didn’t think they were in a much better thriller than this one.

From Rolling Stone USA


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