He looks to be 50ish, balding, tattooed and showing his miles. Troubled. And when his doctor asks what would help, his request is direct and simple.
“Up my dosage,” he says, in Italian, with English subtitles.
Captain Riva has his demons, and we see little flashes back to their source. He was in the service for 30 years. He saw things. He did things. And awful things were done to him.
You don’t need subtitles to read “post traumatic stress disorder” into the title character in “La Belva (The Beast).” And you don’t need our anti-hero (Fabrizio Gifuni) to mutter, into a phone, that he’s an “uomo con particolari capacità,” a “man with particular skills,” to see this thriller for what it is — an Italian “Taken.”
He’s haunted. He’s divorced. He has two children, a teen son who’s never forgiven him for being too wrapped up in his own mess, and a six year old daughter who adores him.
Guess who’s “Taken?” Guess what he does about it?
Director and co-writer Ludovico Di Martino (“Il Nostro Ultimo”) gives us a violent man who takes a horrific series of beatings, stabbings and shootings, all in a frantic pursuit of a person or persons who might be settling some old score with him or might just be into very little girls.
“The Beast” may hit its climax a solid thirty minutes before the movie ends. But the grit, the grim violence and the surprises — in a story that is as naked a “Taken” ripoff as Liam Neeson’s legal team could tolerate — make it a gripping, grueling ride, start to very very VERY drawn-out finish.
Gifuni (“The Cezanne Affair”) makes a properly hulking and stoic lead, traumatized, desperate for that “dosage” just so he can be close to “normal” and have his kids over to dinner. Mattia (Emanuele Linfatti) isn’t having it. Whatever he told their mother (Monica Piseddu), he and little Teresa (Giada Gagliardi) are ducking into a burger joint and ducking the crazy old man.
He only steps outside “for a second.” That’s all it takes to be “Taken.”
Leonida Riva isn’t waiting to tell his wife how their son screwed up. He’s not waiting for the cop (Lino Musella) to get results from the department’s frantic dragnet. He steals a police radio and we’re off– tracking the kidnapper, then the drug dealers who might know the kidnapper, then checking in with old contacts to see who might be responsible for all this.
The fights are savage and in-your-face, with the best set-piece an homage to that famous, furious brawl in the Korean classic “Oldboy.” The climax is more anticlimactic, and the third act goes on well beyond that, settling into something far more sentimental.
But no matter. We’re happy to be taken along on the chase and taken through showdowns showcasing our tough old guy’s “particolari capacità.”
MPA Rating: TV-MA, graphic violence, drug content
Cast: Fabrizio Gifuni, Lino Musella, Monica Piseddu, Emanuele Linfatti, Giada Gagliardi and Andrea Pennacchi
Credits: Directed by Ludovico Di Martino, script by Claudia De Angelis, Nicola Ravera and Ludovico Di Martino. A Warner Media film on Netflix.
Running time: 1:37