out of Five
Running time: 95
Fade to Black has a couple of decent performances and an intriguing set-up but it's ultimately disappointing, thanks to a badly written script and Parker's plodding, unfocussed direction.
What's it all about?
Set in 1948, Fade to Black stars Danny Huston as Orson Welles, who heads to Rome to make a low grade B-movie, following his high-profile split from Rita Hayworth. At the same time, he's trying to raise money to fund his film of Othello, though he's not having much luck.
However, when a mysterious death occurs on set, Welles finds himself compelled to investigate, especially when he meets the victim's beautiful stepdaughter, Lea Padovani (Paz Vega). Aided by his ever-present driver, Tommaso (Diego Luna), Welles uncovers a plot that involves murder, blackmail and covert political wrangling, courtesy of his old friend, Brewster (Christopher Walken).
The performances are something of a mixed bag. Huston makes a good Welles and it's always a joy to see Walken on screen, but it's a mystery as to why Parker cast two Spanish actors in Italian roles, especially as neither Vega nor Luna bothers to attempt an Italian accent.
The problem is that the script is extremely poor throughout, failing to generate any suspense or intrigue from the mystery and frequently descending into lengthy, dull stretches where nothing happens at all. Similarly, Parker's direction is plodding and pedestrian in places and he never manages to find the right tone, to the point where you occasionally wonder if it's meant to be a comedy.
The film is doubly frustrating, because you can see that with a few rewrites, this could have been quite interesting, especially with the political parallels represented by Walken's character (behind-the-scenes American meddling in a volatile political situation). In this sense, the film is similar to last year's The Good German, which was also let down by its lacklustre script.
In short, Fade to Black is a disappointing thriller that squanders its decent premise and fails to engage on any meaningful level, despite good work from Huston and Walken.