Few professions offer the same scope for moral ambiguity as law. Practitioners range from gallant defenders of the innocent to shady mob lawyers with just about everything else in between. Demetrio Perez, working as a court appointed Counsel in Naples, sits somewhere in the middle until he finds himself going off the deep end. Perez. offers up plenty of shiny surfaces and strong, silent characters but the rest of the film remains drearily devoid of life.
An opening monologue affords Perez (Luca Zingaretti) the opportunity to set out his stall. A legal career that once held promise is now used only to defend either petty or horrific criminals. He’s the man they come to when no one else will take the case. The only light in this otherwise dark world is his 20 year old daughter Tea (Simona Tabasco) who’s inconveniently shacking up with gangster Francesco Corvino (Marco D’Amore). This, and the manipulative behaviour of his new client Luca Buglione (Massimiliano Gallo), leads him outside the law in an effort to keep both himself and his daughter safe.
Just in case it wasn’t clear enough that Perez operates in a moral grey zone, director Edoardo De Angelis casts the entire film in this shade. Ferran Paredes Rubio’s cinematography captures overcast skies reflecting off tinted office blocks and empty pavements. Nordic noir has invaded the south of Italy.
The same uniform lack of colour envelops the characters, Perez the worst offender. His glowering silent act masks an empty void. He’s little more than an amalgamation of genre tropes as he soaks up abuse quietly before exploding into sudden outbursts. During an attempted mugging he holds the assailant’s gun to his own head and screams for him to shoot. No hero with a death wish would be complete without a fondness for alcohol. Whisky is rarely far from his side.
Perez might be the worst example but no one else fares much better. Tea in particular is there to look nice, simper when required and provide a cause for her father to sink his teeth into. It really doesn’t take him long to abandon his principles either. Veiled threats and the offer of a few diamonds from Buglione does the trick. Of course, getting the diamonds proves more difficult given that he stashed them in the stomach of a bull. This at least sets up an amusing sequence as he first plots the deed and then carries it out with his friend, nihilistic fellow Counsel Ignazio Merolla (Gianpaolo Fabrizio).
The biggest problem with Perez. is the supreme laziness on display. De Angelis seems to expect a good film to emerge simply by throwing a few tough guys into an impeccably decorated room. Admiring the wallpaper can only take up so much time though. It’s clear soon enough that there’s little else to enjoy.
Director: Edoardo De Angelis
Writers: Edoardo De Angelis, Filippo Gravino
Stars: Luca Zingaretti, Marco D’Amore, Massimiliano Gallo
Runtime: 94 min