Busan 2020 Review: THE PREDATORS, Stylish Italian Dark Comedy Debut
Actor-cum-Director Pietro Castellitto delivers this darkly hilarious gem.
Twenty-eight year old newcomer Pietro Castellitto debuts with this assured, sharply scripted black comedy about class, wildly different families and the individuals that comprise them. It was frankly shocking to learn the Director of this film is so young, as the talent onboard, the sophistication of the script and the style throughout indicate veteran-status skill. Normally Directors cut their teeth with short films but Pietro’s experience stems from his eight or so acting roles, including in The Predators, where he plays an unhinged intern.
Other characters include a grifter that visits both worlds, a Director whose life is on the rocks, and a Doctor who saves a gangster's mother. Just some of the outlandish, well realised madcap ensemble drawn into this web. The Predators is fueled by deep irony, and it is further meta commentary that Pietro as the rich-kid intern is the one with plans to sabotage an upcoming exhuming; of the nihilist philosopher Neitzche himself, the essence of the film.
The Predators delves deep into the various absurd dramas of these two very different families. The proletariat Vismara; an oafish family with leanings toward facism and crime in debt with the mob, and the bourgeoisie Favone; disconnected and absorbed with rivalries and work. Before they are even introduced the film jarringly cuts unrelated scenes of locations and sounds that define where the plot of the film goes. Countryside visits and roads with car sounds but no visual, a harborside dock and gunshots, a quaint looking village accompanied by the sound of a full-on explosion. This introduction is purposely disorienting and a glimpse of the craziness that inevitably connects these characters and fills in these key scenes.
Gradually each player is introduced. Firstly a grinning stranger vaping on the streets of Ostia visits the Vismara matriarch in her humble apartment. He announces he is a friend of her sons Claudio (Giorgio Montanini) and Carlo (Claudio Camilli) and proceeds to scam her with a fake watch. Smash cut to an entirely unrelated sequence featuring what is revealed to be the next family member. This is a refreshing style, the screenplay is tightly controlled so it is never confusing in its presentation, and learning about the ensemble that comprise the film through these very entertaining scenes highlights their individual role in the family hierarchy. Great character banter highlights the class and intellectual difference, and yet reveals both stupidity and wisdom in both. Mostly stupidity though, as these gleefully damaged characters make some wildly hilarious deadpan decisions.
When the characters do start to link or meet face to face, the events alluded to pre-credits begin to make sense. These linkages are deeply ironic, Altmanesque, with bold and unique moments of ludicrous or uncanny events that disrupt or end conversations. Destruction and chaos often define one scene transition to the next. Moments exist in the film just to tease the absurdity of it all. At a ritzy Pavone birthday dinner, a cousin stands and recites a wonderful song she has prepared for the grandmother. What follows is an expletive filled non-stop rap criticizing and decimating everyone at the table, a woke rhyme that comes completely out of nowhere, this scene, one of the highlights, is capped off with giving all at the table a sincere middle finger.
Suspension of disbelief is irrelevant when the film is having this much fun, and ultimately The Predators is so nihilistic that it cannot be taken seriously. Despite this tone, the importance of juxtaposition between each family reveals they have much more in common, with comparisons to the respective alternate that highlight how clever the narrative actually is. The Predators is a relentlessly entertaining, fresh focused and fast-paced black comedy that is a lot of fun to watch, and wraps up both dual family narratives just as confidently as it began.