'Borgman' mixes mayhem, murder in a mostly compelling ride

'Borgman' is an enigmatic mix of murder and mayhem with 'Down and Out in Beverly Hills'

Though it's too enigmatic for its own good and often feels like it's being made up as it goes, the Dutch import "Borgman" holds interest if only to see what might possibly happen next. To that end, expect the unexpected.

Writer-director Alex van Warmerdam's pitch-dark comedy evokes a bit of "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," but with murder, mayhem and mind control in his sights.

The movie begins as Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet), a cagey vagrant living literally underground, must flee his forest dugout and find a new place to crash. In short order, he works his way into the lives of Marina (Hadewych Minis) and Richard (Jeroen Perceval), a well-off if fractious couple living in a sleek suburban home with their three angelic children and a young nanny, Stine (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen).

At first, the susceptible Marina must hide Camiel from her hot-headed husband. But soon Camiel hatches an elaborate, dastardly plan to replace the family gardener and becomes an official live-in employee.

Things turn stranger, twistier and even more lethal as Camiel, aided by a quartet of shifty cohorts, eliminates any obstacles in the way of what emerges as an inscrutable master plan. Surgically etched tattoos, poison, buckets of concrete and a bulldozed backyard all factor in as Marina, Richard, Stine and the kids fall under Camiel and company's cultish spell. But to what end?

And that's the downside of "Borgman." For all its emotional roller-coastering and wild intrigue, the film's purpose — as well as its title character — feels more symbolic than specific. Still, this well-shot and -designed picture is a mostly compelling, intrepid ride.


No MPAA rating; in Dutch with English subtitles.

Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes.

At Landmark's Nuart, West Los Angeles.

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