The Goya Murders
Maribel Verdú, Aura Garrido, Gines Garcia Millan, Roberto Alamo
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… incoherent and vapid with obvious telegraphing …
The machinations of the serial killer have long been fertile ground for filmmakers, but the quality of the final product can vary greatly. For every Zodiac or Se7en, there’s also The Goya Murders (or El Asesino de los Caprichos), which starts with a reasonably sound premise – a killer is poisoning his (usually well off) victims and recreating scenes from Goya prints as deathly exhibits. Imagine the murder scenes in Se7en but with less gore and more artistry.
Investigating these murders are Madrid detectives, Carmen Cobos and Eva González, played by Maribel Verdú (Y Tu Mama Tambien) and Aura Garrido, and though the actors are fine, they have the writing to overcome. Their characters are broadly painted, there’s not a lot of light and shade here.
Carmen immediately takes against her younger partner for no apparent reason. Eva is a fun-loving, karaoke singing, happy mother-of-two, while Carmen drinks from a hip flask and drives erratically. At one point a fellow officer tells Carmen that her ‘bad cop’ routine is too much. Thanks for the nudge.
But the plot has to take most of the blame. It’s incoherent and vapid with obvious telegraphing – the camera lingers on one character, which is enough to solve the whodunit angle, yet confusingly, later the same thing happens to another character with no resulting pay-off. There are threads that start to develop and are then dismissed summarily. Carmen is removed from the case after a personal error of judgement but is then brought back within 10 minutes of screen time. Even more curiously, in one of the most promising ideas in the script, a high level obstruction of justice is uncovered, and then completely sidelined, never to be revisited. It could even be argued that the motive of the killer, the mechanism driving the whole plot, borders on complete irrationality.
The most egregious misstep is the ending. There’s a gruesome incident in the stereotypical final confrontation and then a short coda that serves no clear purpose. In fact, only the fade to black indicates that the movie is over. Very odd. The writer, Ángela Armero has mostly written for Spanish TV, so perhaps this story could have been better served over a run of episodes.
The Madrid streets scenes are well shot and the director, Gerardo Herrero, has a lot of experience as both a producer and director, but he really should have made some sense of this. The Goya Murders is a film that hangs its constituent parts together with no visible cohesion, leaving the viewer to try to imagine the reasoning behind everything or, more likely, to dismiss it as a waste of ninety minutes.