REVIEW: “The Galíndez File”

Posted: June 4, 2008 by Zee in Review

(I watched a movie! And thus begot a review! Unfortunately for me, there was a catch… – S)

Dear readers,

I was duped.

When I recently stopped into a big-chain video store whose name I shall not mention, if only to say it begins in “B” and ends in “Lockbuster”, I was rarin’ to rent an action movie. The thought of mindless shoot-em-up entertainment was a thought of pure delight, and anyway, I owed AS about 90 reviews by that point. My decision that day was to find an obscure title, one that our readers would not normally pick up. In my pick of The Galíndez File, I thought that I had found a keeper.

The Galindez File dvd

Sure, the cover looks a bit low-budget, but it’s got all the right things in place: beautiful pensive girl! Random sepia collage in the background! Title rendered in FoxScript Normal! Harvey Keitel looking really old! And that tagline– “Would the CIA stop her before she exposed the conspiracy?” Come on, how could you go wrong?

Several ways, it turns out.

My first warning should have been when I failed to recognize the company logo. I am certainly not averse to independent cinema. I am even less averse to television movies, given that both Sundance and HBO consistently produce high-quality entertainment with compelling stories and professional, award-caliber actors. Of course, both Sundance and HBO unfailingly have higher budgets and production values than Telemadríd or Produçao de Filmes.

Which brings the second warning: nearly the entire movie is in Spanish.

Basque Spanish.

Now, for someone who has grown up listening to and accustomed to Mexican and (to a certain extent) Central American Spanish, European Spanish takes a moment to decipher. Basque? Imagine you’re listening to someone who had a debilitating stroke…while returning from getting a tooth pulled…and has a crippling drinking problem.

Now for even greater fun, throw in a central character who speaks only Basque…AND has the added bonus of suffering from severe torture-inflicted facial wounds! It’s a sister game of “Guess That Accent”: “Guess Whatever the Hell That Guy Is Saying Because Without the Benefit of Subtitles, It’s Just a Nondescript Slur”!

This wasn’t a bad movie, it just wasn’t an action movie. Instead, it falls into “thriller”…sort of. Or espionage, but not quite that either. “Historically-based quasi-thriller about ethics historians and oh yeah, some people get shot” would cover it nicely.

One of the best things about this movie is Saffron Burrows’ character motivation. Seriously. She plays Muriel, an American ethics historian (one of those dogged leftist intellectuals that seem to be rebelling for the sake of it and are reoccurring characters in these types of movies, despite the fact that they are really just incredibly annoying in real life) who is on the trail of The Truth about the disappearance of Jesus de Galindez, who was a real guy who…um, disappeared. The consensus is that Galindez, a Basque Nationalist and intellectual, was murdered by the corrupt Dominican government in compliance with the CIA and FBI, who then murdered all the witnesses they could to keep it hushed up. Sounds compelling, right? Sounds really meaty, something perfect for a Dogged Leftist Intellectual to be interested in, in her never-ending quest for The Truth, in an attempt to free the minds of the people, to set wrong the rights, to give a voice to the powerless? So what is this brave woman, a light in the darkness, going to tell the audience as she stands in the Spanish cemetery when we first meet her, staring at the monument to her intellectual muse, Galindez, the reason for her quest?

“I’m going to finish my thesis. They’re not going to take my grant away!”

Yep. Throughout the movie, despite all the setbacks and set-ups, her main concern is securing a grant for her doctoral thesis. Truth and liberty be damned, this woman has student loans to pay off!

Harvey Keitel as “poet-loving” (that’s what the back of the DVD case says, although thankfully we don’t see the nearly-70 Keitel lovin’ anything) has similar motivations, which altogether makes this one of the more interestingly practical movies I’ve ever watched. Keitel plays a CIA agent that was involved…somehow…in the Galindez disappearance in 1956. Keitel has played plenty of rogue cops, rogue military toughs, rogue preachers, rogue rogues, and as a CIA agent who is unafraid to kill anyone in his way, he sums up his existence as: “I’m too close to retirement to question my superiors. What they say goes.”

Seriously, this movie is the thriller of the year for the very timid.

Speaking of the very timid, there’s a weird sequence at the beginning that’s partially explained later, except not really, so it just doesn’t make any sense. We start out the movie with Galindez talking to his friend Pepe in his apartment, about such weighty things as The Truth, intellectualism, and liberty. Seeing as nearly the entire opening credits consisted of archival newspaper clippings covering Galindez’s mysterious disappearance, the fact that the scene ends with him chloroformed and stuffed into a refrigerator box shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone. (What SHOULD come as a surprise is how incredibly feeble the supposedly sturdy wooden fridge box is. Fridges in 1956 were wondrously bulky heavy affairs, and this thing is swaying visibly as the Anonymous Henchmen stuff Galindez into it. I wouldn’t trust that thing to hold up under its own weight, much less the weight of a chloroformed fully-grown man.)

Pepe escapes attention by means of a fire escape which he had scurried onto when the Anonymous Henchmen knocked on the door. This is what makes absolutely no sense when it is explained later. Without giving spoilers, I’ll just say there’s no reason at all for him to have hidden himself, and it’s likely the Anonymous Henchmen knew he was there anyway. Therefore the only reason for his action must be that he has a crippling pathological fear of refrigerator-delivery men.

Another bizarre sequence also occurs early in the movie, which has jumped to 1988, when Muriel, her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s uncle are walking through a verdant forest…of painted eyeballs. Every tree is painted with a giant dayglo eyeball, and some have Keith Haring-esque figures on them as well. No explanation whatsoever is given for this, and none of the characters seem to react oddly to it a all, or even comment on it.

In Conclusion:

I can’t really rate this on the bullet scale since this isn’t really an action movie. It has gorgeous scenery, pretty solid performances, and enough “WTF?!” moments to shake you up a bit (keep your eyes peeled for Random Tearful Masturbation Sequence that comes COMPLETELY out of left field). Amazing clichés (a CIA agent obsessed with chess. That’s new.) and occasional dialogue that sounds like they got it out of Crazy Eddie’s Stock Script Warehouse.

I should have rented Shoot ‘Em Up.

  1. Vicki says:

    Seriously, this movie is the thriller of the year for the very timid.

    Prize line.

    Hey! If you haven’t seen “Shoot ‘Em Up” either, we could do a combo review on that one. Unless we come across an even better candidate…

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