Were it not so incorrigibly austere, one might mistake "Intuition," the first original film produced by Netflix Argentina, for a parodic pastiche of every tired police-procedural trope there ever was. But with a movie as pointedly grim and exhaustingly unentertaining as this, any illusion of intentional irony has little room to breathe.
A mere rundown of the premise should alert potential viewers of the film's hackneyed nature. You've got an optimistic, green-as-can-be rookie cop — in this case, Manuela "Pipa" Pelari (Luisana Lopilato) — assigned to investigate a gruesome murder alongside a hardened vet with a questionable moral compass — Chief Detective Francisco Juanez (Joaquín Furriel).
As the two delve into the 20-year-old victim's soured personal life in search of answers, Pipa receives orders to covertly investigate Juanez, who seems to have blood on his own hands. But that may just be a distraction from a greater, more insidious scheme within the police force that — can you guess it? — goes all the way to the top.
Seems like something you've seen countless times before, no? Well, that didn't stop the creative minds behind "Intuition" from carrying out their stale vision with unyielding conviction. Writer-director Alejandro Montiel smothers the film in literal and metaphorical darkness, rendering most scenes either completely uninteresting or barely legible altogether.
Montiel's visual style borrows shamelessly from David Fincher, keeping the camera often stationary unless following a moving person or object. This copycatting is most glaring during a scene in which Pipa arrives to a rendezvous point by car: The camera clings stringently to the vehicle from a birds-eye view, clearly mirroring "Zodiac." However, where Fincher and his frequent cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth, form indelible imagery by carving around the darkness, Montiel's characters and story are merely swallowed by it.
Those characters, while we're at it, are woven from the thinnest, least substantial of threads, and they emote so little that it's obvious Montiel's direction mistakes blankness for the enigmatic ambiguity that so often characterizes hardboiled crime fiction. When innocent blood is shed onscreen, it hardly triggers shock or sympathy, as few viewers could possibly bring themselves to care for such unconvincing, papery protagonists.
Slipshod scripting doesn't help the performers at all, either. They're fed all the standard lines — from "How long have we been working together, so-and-so years?" to "You're off the case" — and are expected to react convincingly to grossly misused plot devices. Perhaps Montiel's greatest sin is his misunderstanding of red herrings; he doubles back on a false lead that's abandoned quite early in the story, which takes the wind out of the film's sails when the big reveal comes. Not to mention, his story veers into multiple, impossible-to-track subplots that make the third act feel interminable.
After "Parasite" won Best Picture at this year's Oscars, many a cinephile hoped it would spawn a surge in viewers who are more open to foreign-language films. We can only hope those audiences don't discover "Intuition" — it may just cause them to double back.
John Battiston is a Times-Mirror reporter and founder of the Reel Underdogs podcast. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reel Underdogs is not affiliated with the Times-Mirror.