“Twin Murders: The Silence of the White City” is a Spanish mash-up of “The Silence of the Lambs” and “The Da Vinci Code.”
It’s a stylish, solidly-acted and terribly-promising thriller that serves up a serial killer story in the striking and little-filmed “White City” of Basque country, Vitoria-Gasteiz, in the northeast of Spain.
This latest “methodical” serial killer is posing his victims, paired symbolically as a couple, in the historic sites of the region — below the city’s principal cathedral, in the historic House of Cordón.
The killer is leading the troubled detective nicknamed “Kraken” (Javier Rey), his partner (Aura Garrido) and his boss (Belén Rueda) through centuries of Basque history, Celtic to Roman to Catholic Christian, making each pair of victims five years older than the previous pair.
So why isn’t this as fascinating as you’d expect?
Director Daniel Calparsoro and screenwriters Alfred Pérez Fargas and Roger Danès avail themselves of striking locations — and a church calendar festival that appears to end in a flour-based food fight (Like a similar festival in Alicante?) — but never explain anything or give the history of any location.
There is no Professor Robert Langdon to lay out the back story, explain the symbolism of the posed bodies. Or rather there is, and he — the Hannibal Lecter of the tale (Alex Brendemühl), imprisoned for the original murders that these seem to have been inspired by — is neglected for much of the movie.
Calparsoro’s film, based on Eva García Sáenz de Urturi’s novel, is choppy, hard-to-follow and filled with blown opportunities and tedious “walking and talking,” “driving and talking” or “jogging and talking” scenes of the cops going hither and yon, trying to piece together what is happening, which stunningly scenic locale the next crime might take place.
And the picture is cluttered with the cops’ own “issues” — survivor’s guilt, romance, what have you.
Many a time we see Unai/”Kraken”( Rey) retreat to the family farm where he diagrams the case, gets clues from his beekeeper grandfather (the killer hides bees in the mouths of his victims). And yet Unai doesn’t put two-and-two together.
There’s a spirited chase with the killer, who is spying on Unai and the other cops, leaving them photographs as proof that he knows what they’re up to. They sprint across the roof and through the city’s glorious 12th century Gothic cathedral. But every foot chase ends with the person trying to escape outrunning the cops whom we see JOGGING THE EMPTY STREETS AT DAWN. Every day.
We hear “It’s not very professional, to get carried away on a hunch” (in Spanish with English subtitles), before this married cop starts fooling around with that widowed one.
There’s the inevitable “I’ll need your badge and gun” moment when things get personal.
And the fascinating KEY to the whole mystery, tucked in prison, a former “Unsolved Mysteries” TV show host, is left on the shelf.
It’s all a muddle and a disappointment. Even when it finishes with a flourish, the half-attentive viewer can pick up on clues not played-up, clever angles that would more creatively connect our pursuers with the wily killer who steals much of his shtick from “Silence of the Lambs.”
“The Sleeper Killer” knows Buffalo Bob (of “Silence of the Lambs”) worked with moths. So he’d better use BEES. To be, you know, original.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, graphic violence, torture, explicit sex
Cast: Javier Rey, Aura Garrido, Belén Rueda, Alex Brendemühl
Credits: Directed by Daniel Calparsoro, script by Alfred Pérez Fargas and Roger Danès, based on the Eva García Sáenz de Urturi novel. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:50