Dir.: Hleb Papou; Cast: Germano Gentile, Maurizio Bousso, Marco Falaguasta, Sabina Guzzanti; Italy/France 2021, 82 min.
Il Legionario is a first feature for Belorussian born director/co-writer Hleb Papou who fleshes out a simplistic narrative from his award-winning Cannes short film of the same name centring on brothers Daniel and Patrick, of African parentage. Daniel is a policeman with Rome’s Riot Police, Patrick the gang-leader of a group of squatters in a building due for ‘clearance’ by Daniel’s unit.
The director’s sympathy clearly lies with Patrick (Bousso) and his cause, Daniel (Gentile) appears to be on the wrong side of the conflict. Daniel’s wife Tricia is pregnant; the fact that she is white makes Daniel’s position even more complex. The squad leader of his unit is a man called ‘Aquila’ (Falaguasta), who meets with right-wing extremists and expects Daniel to obey his orders when it comes to repossessing the block of flat from the 150 occupiers, who have been offered accommodation in Milano, which they refused. Patrick and Daniel’s mother tries in vain to reconcile the brothers, but in the end, she sides with Patrick, not wanting to leaver her own flat in the block. The fight is bloody, and Patrick threatens to throw himself from the roof. For Daniel, with ‘Aquila’ watching, there will be no more comprises.
Impressive flight scenes between the police and protestors make this a gritty action drama: Gentile’s Daniel is convincing as a man who hesitates, until it is too late. Patrick is a head banger, but still tells his son, that Daniel is one of them, acting as a spy. Passionate and visually spectacular, Papou weaves a violent tapestry, where everyone is caught up in a battle nobody can win. AS
Best Emerging Director Award of the City and Region of Locarno | LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL 2021