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In the Shadow (2013)

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Score: 4/10

Genre: Gangster Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.

Release Date: April 6th, 2013 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: David Ondricek Actors: Ivan Trojan, Sebastian Koch, Sona Norisova, Jiri Stepnicka, David Svehlik, Marek Taclik, Filip Antonio, Simona Babcakova

S

et in the ‘50s in Czechoslovakia, an overweight safecracker gives himself away to a keen detective who notices sweat drops at the site of a robbery. There’s also a sheath-like item left at the scene, which the police leader and his associate joke about – it’s a clue, but what could it be for? Storing jewels? A knife? Measuring rice? Captain Jarda Hakl (Ivan Trojan) recognizes the accessory and visits a thug for some answers – which leads him to the location of renowned burglar Kirsch (Miroslav Krobot), whose room at the Jewish Community Centre conceals the stolen jewelry from the heist. But Hakl learns that Kirsch spent the night in the alcohol ward of a psychiatric clinic. Clearly, he’s been set up – and the reasons for the trickery become more devious when German cop Major Zenke (Sebastian Koch) of State Security takes over due to political wheeling and dealing, the nearing promotion of Hakl’s boss Panek (Jirí Stepnicka), and a supposed history with Jewish smugglers supporting Zionist terrorists.

The case is solved in a day and the newspaper headlines make Jarda appear as a genius detective. But he knows there’s more to the case, especially when his superiors and State Security want him to stop investigating. Although monetary reform plagues the Czech Republic, striking fear in the hearts of everyone, Hakl continues to go about his work diligently, with the political turmoil being forgotten in the background. It’s evident that his son Tom and his wife Jitka (Sona Norisová) are merely nuisances and responsibilities that occasionally interfere with his undying mission. The next day, the post office is robbed, resulting in several deaths, including that of Vilem Foll, a killer known as “The Butcher.” Hakl proceeds with the case, utilizing his various connections and resources to go behind Zenke’s back. The ballistics expert, Vita Novak (Krystof Mucha), informs him that the bullets used in the post office shooting match weapons issued only to State Security, and not Janata, a notorious criminal that Zenke pins the crime to – and whose body is later discovered mutilated by a train.

There’s a mystery, conspiracy, and cover-up afoot, and everyone is intent on forcing Jarda out of the way. “In the Shadow” is wholeheartedly a film noir, going to great lengths to fit the part in style, cinematography, lighting, and minute details. Everyone is dressed like classic gangsters, sporting devilish black coupes, trenchcoats over suits and ties, leather gloves, and fedoras that intercept sparse illuminations of faces. The film definitely lives up to its name, casting immersive shadows on almost everything, sometimes making it difficult to decipher different characters. At one point, the electricity even goes out in Jarda’s house, despite having little effect on the clarity of the scene. The ceaseless music chimes in too, as if to say calamitous events are always looming. And frequently they are, with Hakl’s family being targeted for harm to persuade the captain to drop the ascertaining of clues.

Everyone seems to be hiding something; and as in many thrillers involving cops, corruption of those in power is inevitable. Actions are submerged in ulterior motives and hidden intentions – even roles with nothing to conceal struggle to veil their emotions and concerns. All of the characters are also tough, bitter, or hardened like the most typical roles found in a dark film noir – riddled with antiheroes brimming with distrust and paranoia. This lends to solitary sleuthing and the realization that justice must be pursued by the unafraid or it will be manufactured by the most influential. This theme causes the resolution to be bleak, tragic, and less affecting, detracting from the initial notion of unraveling a circuitous mystery worth solving.

– Mike Massie

 



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