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THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY: 3 STARS. “not a typical crime drama.”

Ambition and art mix and match in “The Burnt Orange Heresy.” A coolly elegant crime thriller, based on Charles Willeford’s 1971 novel of the same name, the film peels back the art world’s veneer to reveal a dark underbelly.

“The Square’s” Claes Bang is James Figueras, a once internationally famous art critic now reduced to lecturing American tourists in Milan. After one of his talks he meets Berenice Hollis (Elizabeth Debicki), a willowy art aficionado from Duluth, Minnesota. They hit it off, and have what she assumes is a one-night stand until he invites her to spend the weekend at the Lake Como estate of enigmatic art collector Joseph Cassidy (Mick Jagger).

James’s expectations of being offered the job of cataloguing Cassidy’s massive private collection are flipped when the collector asks him to do a task that could bring the disgraced critic back to prominence. Cassidy, sensing that James will do anything to get back in the public eye, asks him to steal a painting from hermetic artist Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland). Debney is a legend and his work so rare, that just one painting could gather world attention. Question is, how far will James go to finish the job?

Like the painting that gives the movie its name, nothing in “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is not quite as it seems. Using noir tropes—the anti-hero, the femme fatale, a villain protagonist, a double cross— director Giuseppe Capotondi keeps things interesting after an unhurried start. What begins as a sun dappled caper takes a very dark turn as the director completes his portrait of ambition and desperation in the film’s final third.

As Figueras, Bang oozes a sketchy appeal. He’s desperate and dangerous, but his worst qualities are hidden behind a suave exterior. He’s the central character but is overshadowed by the chemistry that sparks every time Debicki and Sutherland share the screen. She is charismatic in an underwritten role, but it is her scenes with the eccentric and kindly Debney that shine. That there are questions as to everyone’s motives—except for the Machiavellian Cassidy, wonderfully played by Jagger—adds intrigue to the tale.

“The Burnt Orange Heresy” isn’t a typical crime drama. The story is fuelled by arrogance, deceit and lies as much as plot, the crime is almost incidental to the interest created by the characters.

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