“Details. It’s all in the details.”
Fresh after the success of The Secret in Their Eyes, Ricardo Darin stars in another criminal suspense thriller that attempts to recreate that similar slow building atmosphere. Directed by Hernan Goldfrid, Thesis on a Homicide, begins with a lot of promise thanks in large part to Darin’s charismatic performance as Roberto Bermudez, a criminal law specialist who is teaching a two month course to recent graduate lawyers. He has just published a well received book in the field as well and that is how we are introduced to his character. He is an intelligent and well respected man, but his work has affected his personal life as he lives on his own after a failed marriage. He takes a particular interest in one of his students who has come from Spain and whose parents he was a close friend of. His name is Gonzalo (Alberto Ammann) and he seems to fit a particular psychological profile that troubles Roberto. He feels like Gonzalo is one of those arrogant rich kids who wants to prove he can commit the perfect murder. When a murder takes place in the parking lot of the Faculty of Law, Roberto becomes obsessed to prove that Gonzalo is behind the crime. This obsession leads him to few hours of sleep and at the same time he ends up putting Laura’s (Calu Rivero), the victim’s sister, life at risk when he uses her as bait to reach Gonzalo. This obsession gradually makes Roberto lose his mind and it becomes an interesting psychological character study building on the suspense.
The film opens with a lot of promise and I was engaged with Darin’s performance. He is one of those few actors who can turn a weak script into an interesting and compelling movie. This isn’t an intelligent thriller, but it works thanks to his lead performance. Unfortunately the build-up doesn’t fulfill its promise because the ending feels forced. The film tries to be an intelligent thriller focusing on the law system, but it never really delves deep into the subject matter and everything is slightly touched upon. The thriller never feels like it could stand out on its own because it seems to borrow heavily from other films in the genre and you can’t help but feel like you’ve seen this same plot in numerous other movies. The film does a good job at establishing the atmosphere during the first half of the film, but once the behavior of Roberto becomes overly obsessive it is apparent that each decision he makes is forced to move the story along. I felt like some of the liberties the director took with the character were too manipulative and out of character. The final fifteen minutes of the film are very disappointing in that way and everything seems rushed, which doesn’t work at all in a film that took so much time to build the atmosphere in the first place. Calu Rivero delivers an interesting performance although there isn’t much for her to do here. This is Darin’s film and he makes the screenplay work to the best of his ability, but the rest of the characters are all underdeveloped.
I couldn’t help but feel that the cinematography was very pretentious at times. It looks good and has some interesting angles, but after a few minutes you realize there isn’t much purpose to these shots other than to show off the director’s talents. It becomes distracting at times and it really didn’t add anything to the story. There are a couple of dream sequences that didn’t work either, but I’m being a little to critical of this film because for the most part I was entertain and intrigued. The suspense works, but unfortunately the final payoff disappoints and you are left with that bittersweet taste in your mouth. When it comes to Argentinean cinema, Ricardo Darin is already involved in its most important films, but this isn’t one I’d recommend. Skip this and watch The Secret in their Eyes or Nine Queens if you haven’t had a chance to see Darin. He’s a talented actor who has refused over the past decade to work in Hollywood, but if you’ve seen Argentinean films you probably have an idea of what a great actor he is.