Abel Ferrara has always been fascinated by religion. From Bad Lieutenant to the more recent Tommaso there is always the thread of religion that weaves together the narrative of his films. His latest release Padre Pio, continues this exploration. This time he collaborates with Shia LeBeouf in an unusual role for the seasoned actor.
From start to finish the film appears confused and muddled. The narrative is unclear and the performances are below par. Shia LeBeouf plays a 20th Century Italian saint, based on the historical figure Padre Pio. He was famous for setting up a research centre and providing other notable charitable works during his life. He was said to have supernatural abilities and was examined by the Church for sainthood. It wasn't until 1999 that beautification was granted him by Pope John Paul II. The historical life of Padre Pio is far more interesting than anything produced in this low budget B-movie, that has little to offer audiences.
The focus of the film awkwardly and with little connection to each other, centres around Padre Pio (Shia LeBeouf) and a mother of two children played by Abel Ferrara's wife (Christina Chiriac). LaBeouf arrives at the start of the film on a donkey, arriving at his new home at a monastery in Italy. Christina Chiriac's character waits anxiously for the return of her husband, as no word arrives whether he is alive or dead. The two characters bare no relation to each other, leaving a disconnected muddled mess that doesn't coherently form a satisfactory narrative.
At the same time as this a revolutionary force led by Luigi (Vincenzo Crea) hopes to lead a socialist manifesto in the local elections, which up to this point has been at the privilege of the gentry not by anyone of normal standing. This leads to the gentry retaliating by sacking any workers who support the new party. It has grand aspirations, trying to portray to the audience a deep socialist message but the viewer is left with a Dummies guide to Socialism rather than anything particularly profound.
One of the worst aspects of the film is the amateurish take on accents. Shia LeBeouf doesn't even try to put on an Italian accent and keeps his thick American accent while his colleagues use Italian colloquialisms. It leaves an already messy film even more disjointed. The same problem occurred in Ridley Scott's latest epic Napoleon, which also had the same effect of leaving the film looking disingenuous. The films soundtrack also seems to have little connection to the film being watched with a string of old Blues songs being played in the background. It is this careless attitude to detail that leads to such a poor end product.
If you are looking to watch an Abel Ferrara film look away from this cheap, rushed, muddled mess and instead look at some of his earlier works. Quentin Tarantino's estimation that directors filmography's get worse by age, may have some credence in the case of this once great American director, Abel Ferrara.
Dazzler Media presents Padre Pio in selected cinemas from 26 January