As there have been numerous films that have fallen victim to COVID-19, “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is another one. Briefly released in March (a week before the world stopped so to speak), the film had a somewhat mild theatrical run with the press. With the talent including Mick Jagger, Danish actor Claes Bang, Donald Sutherland (Hunger Games) and Elizabeth Debicki (Great Gatsby) I was thrilled to have the chance to check out a screener from Amazon Studios. The story follows an art critic (Bang), sent by a shady collector (Jagger), to gain a rare painting from an artist living on his property (Sutherland). Debicki plays a love interest to Bang who may or may not have her own agenda at play. From that premise alone, you can definitely tell this is a film that wants to have as many twists and turns as possible.
“The Burnt Orange Heresy” starts out getting a lot of setup into this world of intrigue through the eyes of a critic. It doesn’t always work, but actors of this caliber really help in making it be as pulpy and fun as possible. In this first hour, director Giuseppe Capotondi focuses on allowing us to get to know these characters like a good novel does. Some of those character-building moments are better than others (particularly Bang and Debicki’s first meeting at a presentation), but after that he really slows the pace down. Particularly, what doesn’t work is how long it takes for the real entertaining moments to happen. We do get teases of those moments in scenes with musician turned actor Mick Jagger, but this is where my unfortunate problems with the film start to occur.
If your interest in the film is to see the singer in one of his first “official” film roles, you’ll be disappointed in what I’m about to say. In total, he only appears in about four scenes in this 95-minute feature. However, when he does show up, he is arguably one of the film’s most entertaining aspects. With that said, this cast is so entertaining that the film is able to keep up the pulpy fun. When the plot starts going in its second half, I will be the first to admit that it's some of the most fun I've had watching a movie this year.
There are particular reveals and twists that I didn’t see coming which made me forgive some of the pacing issues in the first half. Trust me when I say that when this movie works, it fires on all cylinders. From all involved, there’s an attention to detail that pays attention to the structure of this kind of noir film. It may not work for everyone, but there’s a certain amount of respect to be had for what’s being done here. “The Burnt Orange Heresy” certainly isn’t the type of film that’s going to spoon-feed an audience on what is to come. If you’re willing to wait and get on its wavelength, it can be a fun if not entirely memorable to watch.
Watch the trailer here.