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With: Claes Bang, Elizabeth Debicki, Mick Jagger, Donald Sutherland
Written by: Scott B. Smith, based on a novel by Charles Willeford
Directed by: Giuseppe Capotondi
MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content/nudity, language, drug use and violence
Running Time: 98
Date: 03/13/2020

The Burnt Orange Heresy (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Flick As Thieves

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Burnt Orange Heresy is based on a novel by the late, great pulp novelist Charles Willeford, best known for titles like Pick-Up, Cockfighter, Miami Blues, and The Woman Chaser; the latter three were adapted into interesting movies as well.

Better still, the screenplay was written by Scott B. Smith, whose excellent novels include A Simple Plan and The Ruins, and who received an Oscar nomination for his adaptation of A Simple Plan.

Appropriately, it begins with a writer, an art critic, James Figueras (Claes Bang, from The Square and Netflix's Dracula) giving a presentation that is designed to show how easily public opinion can be manipulated.

After, he meets cool blonde Berenice Hollis (Elizabeth Debicki, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Widows) and they connect via some banter. They sleep together, and James invites her to come along for a weekend at the mansion of a wealthy art collector named Cassidy.

Cassidy (Mick Jagger, in his first honest-to-goodness movie role since 2001's The Man from Elysian Fields) makes a devilish entrance. He explains that he has a guest staying on his estate, famous painter Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland).

However, Debney has not let anyone see his artwork for some time. So Cassidy asks James to obtain an original Debney for his collection, in whatever way is necessary.

Needless to say, nothing goes well. Each character's dialogue dances around the edges of the truth, playing games with one another, or else flat-out lying to one another. It's a gleefully illicit atmosphere, aided by the lustful Italian backdrops.

It's almost disappointing when things escalate into violence, which seems too typical an answer for a movie this clever about deception.

The Burnt Orange Heresy — the title refers to one of Debney's mysterious artworks — was directed by Giuseppe Capotondi, a former maker of music videos and commercials, who has made only one other feature film.

It's possible that another filmmaker more accustomed to a longer attention span could have brought more finesse to that final section, without rushing headlong into darkness, and possibly preserving some of the devious humor of the first half.

Nonetheless, The Burnt Orange Heresy is still an uncommonly sophisticated crime film, wherein the things that are stolen may not necessarily be objets d'art.

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