A complex and twisty thriller on Netflix will have you biting your nails until the final scene

The legal duels, led by prosecutors driven by the desire to do their job to the full, that is, to put a confessed murderer behind bars, and lawyers whose exorbitant fees could not be a greater incentive for the defense of all kinds of criminals, have never been missing in cinema. . Despite this irrefutable truth, Gregory Hoblit decided to bet on the genre, visibly taking advantage of a good idea that would free him to be a good imitator. The result appeared in “A Master’s Crime” (2007), a thriller with everything seen in stories with this configuration and, all the same, original.

Anthony Hopkins had certainly used in Hoblit’s work the experience gained when he played one of Hollywood’s greatest psychopaths. Here there are clear traces of Hannibal Lecter, the Lithuanian forensic psychiatrist from Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). Forced to emigrate to the United States as a boy due to major trauma, Lecter develops his own troubles – and a very characteristic taste. For his part, Theodore Crawford also has an irresistible taste for blood, even if he refined it even more than the character of Demme’s film. The similarities between the two — Lecter devoted; Crawford, unjustly lost in the mists of time (and there has been much speculation about the “need” for a sequel) – is obvious from the introduction of “A Master’s Crime”. The two men who worked hard to climb the ladder – the psychiatrist had even encountered financial difficulties before fleeing to America, during the persecution of the Jews during the Second World War (1939-1945), and it is precisely in a episode related to the war triggered by his madness – Lecter and Crawford have become powerful Nietzschean gods ex machina. Above good and evil, reason appears to them as a very relative and relativizable concept, understood as a simple unfolding of circumstances that they strive to always be favorable to them.

Observing this premise, Hoblit lies down and turns over, giving the aeronautical engineer played by Hopkins an aura of clean, vegetarian Hannibal Lecter. Crawford catches his wife, Jennifer, played by Embeth Davidtz, nearly thirty years his junior, making out with a lover. She cancels her appointments and returns home to make ends meet, and when she arrives, after a sequence in which Hopkins and Davidtz do their dirty laundry in the finest fashion including two nobles, embattled in a luxurious mansion, might – and the dialogues written by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers are just that – it turns out that sophistication really hurts. The clash between the couple is the only moment Crawford inspires pity, a despicable feeling for a maniac, and so powerful that he blames the blow. When he preaches the last sermon to her, making it clear that he has it all figured out, she turns around and takes a bullet, precisely timed to hit a vital area of ​​the brain but keep her alive. When the police show up and Lieutenant Robert Nunally begins a preliminary interrogation, in order to know where he is stepping, Crawford does not hide that he shot the woman, which becomes a paradox, since the weapon does not does not appear and, therefore, there is no crime—the central theme of the plot; that core’s dramatic arc closes when the Lieutenant, played by Billy Burke, turns to the body and makes another major accomplishment in “A Master’s Crime.”

As in “The Two Faces of a Crime” (1996), another nugget of suspense in Gregory Hoblit’s story, a crazy justice professional from the entertainment service is in charge of the case, with the difference that, here, he is to accuse. Young, hard-working and, above all, ambitious, William Beachum, as Lieutenant Nunally, soon finds himself surrounded by Crawford’s diabolical cunning, which is evident in Ryan Gosling’s sharp facial expressions. Hopkins and Gosling hit a round ball, in which the veteran still makes the right pass to his scene partner, but ends up scoring the goal himself. The antagonist catches the prosecutor in the banal trap he is preparing for him without any difficulty, aided no doubt by the naive arrogance of Beachum, which makes him depreciate the genius of Crawford and allows him to be deceived by the very witness whom he he had listed (the second plot twist). , which ruins his plans to change careers and go to work for Wooton Sims, one of the most prestigious law firms in the country, reporting to Nikki Gardner – and Beachum ends up nurturing a romance shaped by pragmatism with Rosamund Le character of Pike, composed of two sharks. Although he also lost his job in the district attorney’s office, he decides to pursue the case, dispensing with the advice of Gardner and Joe Labruto, his superior in the civil service, in the role of David Strathairn. . It is precisely this stubbornness, so present in anti-heroes – and especially in film noir anti-heroes – that redeems him from all previous mistakes and opens a gap for him to, after all, incriminate Theodore Crawford, in which case the game restarts and another movie comes by the way.

If we had to choose a single trump card in “A crime by a master”, it would be, inexorably, the partnership of Anthony Hopkins – still full of firewood, as evidenced by “My father” (2020), by Florian Zeller – and Ryan Gosling, each year more mature as an artist. History only adorns both, and for this reason Gregory Hoblit’s film becomes, today one might say, a classic. Not very well known, a sad truth, but a classic.

Film: A master’s crime
Direction: Gregory Hoblit
Year: 2007
To note: 9/10

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