When Samantha Andretti (Valentina Belle), who was abducted at the age of thirteen, is found, she is questioned by Dr Green (Dustin Hoffman), a profiler who is working with the police in order to find her kidnapper. Meanwhile, private investigator Bruno Genko (Toni Servillo) is also on the hunt for Samantha’s abductor. He is driven by his sense of duty to her parents who requested his help many years ago, and the fact that he is terminally ill. Both men are led on internal and external journeys to find their target. These pursuits become stranger as the true nature of Samantha’s situation unfolds.
Director-author Carrisi, on whose book this film is based, attempts to replicate the success of his previous film, the Jean Reno-starring The Girl in the Fog, which featured similar subject matter. On one level he succeeds, utilising a semi-stylised approach seemingly derived from Sin City that places the action in a geographically ambiguous setting, with futuristic cityscapes sitting alongside Southern Gothic rural swamps.
In addition, the performances from the main cast impress. Servillo expertly conveys Genko’s world-weary yet determined nature as he desperately pursues leads in order to uncover the mystery behind Samantha’s disappearance. Italian actress Belle is impressive as her English-speaking character in her scenes opposite Hoffman. She convincingly depicts Samantha’s initial confusion as well as her desperation and rage as she tries to remember what happened to her during her many years in captivity. However, it is Hoffman, unsurprisingly, who gives the best performance. The acting legend provides Dr Green with sufficient nuance to make his subsequent character development feel more three-dimensional and realistic.
Unfortunately, Carrisi’s ambitions fall short in his plotting and characterisation. He rehashes many of the standard tropes of the detective thriller. A notable example is the inclusion of Genko’s attractive sex worker informer, who exists only to provide exposition and is killed off simply to emphasise the threat the kidnapper poses. Carrisi’s use of these cliched narrative devices results in Genko’s quest for the truth containing little in the way of excitement. In particular, the true identity of the kidnapper and the motivation behind his crimes is revealed in a somewhat anticlimactic and abrupt manner. The character of Genko himself seems unexpectedly passive and even his terminal illness is only utilised as a cheap plot device.
The subplot involving Dr Green is perplexing, as his scenes with Samantha are ultimately rendered irrelevant by the film’s climax. Whether Carrisi intended some greater significance regarding the inclusion of this narrative thread is unclear. The cynical view would be that Hoffman’s inclusion is simply an attempt to provide the film with greater international box office appeal.
Ultimately, Into the Labyrinth proves to be a frustrating mixture of stylistically-impressive direction and first-class performances with threadbare plotting and questionable narrative choices. Even the presence of Dustin Hoffman fails to improve this confusing Italian thriller.
Available on DVD and On-demand from Mon 19 Apr 2021