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Overall Rating
3.14

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 14.29%
Just Average85.71%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 1 rating



Bengali Detective, The
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by Jay Seaver

"A case where the last piece of the puzzle is missing."
3 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2011: Often, a good documentary will seem like the result of as much good fortune as anything; after all, it's entirely possible to have a compelling topic, an interesting subject to follow around, and a good crew, but that's no guarantee of having a great film come together. Sometimes, a filmmaker will have all that and just be unable to will something fascinating to happen on camera. "The Bengali Detective" certainly seems to be that sort of movie - a good concept whose great, climactic scene just never materialized.

Rajesh Ji is the Bengali detective of the title, a private investigator who started fifteen years ago with just a pair of cell phones. He now has an office, a half-dozen or so employees, and multiple clients who have him investigate a broad range of cases. His bread and butter is infidelity and stores selling counterfeit products, but his firm has just been engaged by a family that doesn't believe the police are doing enough to investigate a grisly murder. The detectives are a close-knit group, entering a television dance competition together, although Rajesh is showing the strain from other parts of his life - his wife Minnie is seriously ill.

Those last two elements often seem to be at war with each other; this dance thing seems to be taking up a fair amount of time that Rajesh could be spending with his family while he still can. Sure, the audience can't really judge how any man deals with that sort of stress - practicing his dance moves might be just the release Rajesh needs - but most are certainly going to give it a try and find it lacking; we see a man lying to himself and his wife about the seriousness of her health problems. Besides that, the dance competition seems like extra tacked-on quirkiness, comic relief at the expense of the movie's subjects.

Which is unnecessary, because the movie already has plenty of that. Its opening titles are modeled after a detective show in the CSI mold, although winking at the audience because of the stars wearing broken-in t-shirts rather than nice suits. And even if the audience is inclined to see the counterfeit-products investigation as serious business - it certainly is to Rajesh's corporate clients, and gets the most resources of anything we see - the emphasis on it being given titles like "Operation Tiger" works against that. The entire movie gives the impression of kids playing detective, scrawling "murder case" on their files and earnestly looking for "clues".

That wouldn't necessarily be a bad angle to take, really, especially once we've had a look at just how overburdened the Kolkata police force is - this agency wouldn't get licensed in America, but they're vital in India. Director Philip Cox doesn't do a whole lot to flesh the particulars out - we're never given much of an idea what Rajesh's background and training is, or just what led him and his men to this business. When he hits a brick wall with the police officer investigating the murder case, it's tough to give it context - are the police annoyed at having to waste time dealing with a dilettante, is there some history between these two individuals, or are they indifferent to the case itself?

A lot of this could have been alleviated if Cox and crew had been able to get some really good footage that seems to be missing. Of the three cases they follow, only one really comes to a conclusion, and it's the one where we see very little of the investigation (perhaps because of clearance issues). It's too bad, because Cox does all right when he gets good footage - he is able to build the first half of a good true-crime story from the murder case and find the right balance of deadpan and slapstick from the dance segments.

Perhaps, then, it's fitting that the big news out of Sundance was not Fox Searchlight picking up distribution rights, but the chance to remake the movie. Give these characters a script with an actual ending and no gaps in the narrative, and you may really have something. This version - as is unfortunately the case with real-life investigations - is frequently intriguing but frustratingly incomplete.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=21797&reviewer=371
originally posted: 05/04/11 14:27:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Berlin International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2011 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2011 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 34th Starz Denver Film Festival For more in the 34th Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/02/11 Spike the untangler Simon Foster got it right. You missed the mark. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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