The opening scenes of "Intrepido: A Lonely Hero" promise a sharp parable about workaday economic realities. As an under-the-table "fill-in" Italian laborer, moving from one temporary assignment to another in Milan, actor Antonio Albanese is an appealing chameleon with more than a touch of the wise fool — a little bit Chaplin, a little bit Zelig.
But the modern-day clown's blue-collar travels lose focus as the movie proceeds. Whether director Gianni Amelio is aiming for emotional effect or social commentary, his fuzzy detours into melodrama land well off the mark.
A zippy score provides ironic counterpoint as the episodic tale follows Albanese's character (also named Antonio) from job to job. There are arresting views behind the city's facades: on the girders of a high-rise construction site; among the cleaning crew, otherworldly in its protective gear, at an otherwise empty stadium; on the nighttime streets, hanging posters (a well-played comic jab at advertising memes). Each gig lasts from a couple of hours to a couple of days, with an unsavory gym owner (Alfonso Santagata) brokering the deals but not forking over payment, as Antonio gently reminds him.
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The movie's thrust grows muddled in Antonio's friendship with a despondent woman in her 20s (Livia Rossi), perhaps meant to be emblematic of directionless youth facing limited options. His relationship with his musician son (Gabriele Rendina) offers opportunities for affectionate exchanges and soulful jazz sax solos while confusing matters further.
Director Amelio turns Antonio's brief stint at a "real" job into a piercing and visually striking glimpse of hypocrisy and corruption — a glimpse too of the film that might have been.
"Intrepido: A Lonely Hero"
No MPAA rating.
In Italian with subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.