The list of actors for whom English is a second language and yet who can convincingly play a native English speaker is a short one. French-born Eva Green managed an impressively crisp British accent in Casino Royale, but even though Arnold Schwarzenegger might play a US commando, a robot from the future, or Mr Freeze, he never does so without his jarring – yet strangely comforting – vocal delivery. In Callback, Chilean-born actor Martin Bacigalupo plays the uniquely named Larry De Cecco with an overly measured US accent. His words are carefully, cautiously enunciated. Is Larry an American or is he merely trying to fit in? When challenged on this, his response is that it simply doesn’t matter.
Larry might suggest that his nationality is unimportant, but the onscreen exploration of the matter adds some welcome context to Callback, the latest feature from Spanish director Carles Torras (co-written with Bacigalupo). Larry displays an emotionless contempt for those whose American dream has worked out better than his own. As Larry, Bacigalupo is an effective sociopath who calmly segways into unsettling perversity with a lack of fanfare that is reflective of the subdued nature of the character. Sometimes this approach works, and sometimes not, as the muted behaviour on display becomes somewhat problematic. The character – and the events around him – are so dispassionate that the whole story comes close to flatlining at times, despite the flashes of violence.
There are telling moments as Larry the sociopathic, struggling actor attempts to be personable to those around him, as though he’s only learned small talk from a badly-written book. Larry’s accent means that even a straightforward idiom sounds wonderfully threatening. Bacigalupo displays restraint in not emphasising the potential amusement of these encounters, which makes his behaviour later all the more creepily intensive while still not affecting the gentle pace of the narrative. This tightly controlled pace makes it feel as though the stakes are not particularly high for Larry, or indeed, for the audience.
“You can’t put a ceiling on the American dream,” says the evangelical pastor at Larry’s church, whose boisterous nature comes across as smirking. Agree or disagree, but it would have been nice if Larry’s off-kilter exploration of the American dream had aimed a little bit higher than the ceiling.
Callback does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Callback here: