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A wealthy, decadent count convinces a disillusioned playboy that they shall murder one another's relatives, to get away with the perfect crime. The count murders the playboy's unpleasant wife. Now the playboy finds he cannot keep his end of the bargain, while the police finger him for the murder. Written by
Joe Arthur <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Designated Victim is one of those once-rare films that's developed a small cult following that the film itself doesn't really justify now it's more widely available. It's a spin on Strangers on a Train (sans train) that sees Tomas Milian's architect befriended by Pierre Clementi's aristocrat, looking like a fey Eurotrash androgynous vampire with a touch of Russell Brand, who offers to swap murders with him. He'll kill Milian's wife who won't let him sell his share in the advertising business they started with her money, and Milian will kill Clementi's brother. Naturally, Milian doesn't take it seriously until his wife is murdered and a mounting trail of incriminating evidence paints him into a corner where the only way to prove he's not a murderer is to commit murder which should all be much more interesting than it plays out. Milian's character is more interesting than his equivalent in the Hitchcock film: morally compromised, forging his wife's signature to seal the deal but the kind of half-hearted criminal who still deposits a fifth of his ill-gotten gains in her account to salve his conscience. Unfortunately, Clementi seems stuck playing someone who's more an affectation than a real person and their relationship simply isn't interesting enough to carry a film this sedate. It's not a giallo and barely even a thriller for most of its running time, more one of those stories of moral decay and inertia set partially in the grim out of season Venice so beloved of filmmakers who weren't in a hurry to tell a story in the 70s. And director Maurizio Lucidi certainly is in no hurry here as the film slowly ambles to its all too predictable twist ending. Indeed, it's all too easy to see why the film was cut, though at least one cut abbreviates a crucial scene regarding Clementi's motivation to kill (he rather likes the idea of taking God's job himself).
Shameless' reconstructed UK DVD isn't quite the uncut film some snippets are relegated to the deleted scenes bin while the restored footage is pretty easy to spot by the changing aspect ratio but it's certainly a good presentation of a not really good enough 'lost' movie. If only it weren't so well, dull.
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