Prince of Shadows Review

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A Communist hitman Darman is summoned back to Madrid in 1962 to kill a party member who turned traitor during the Spanish Civil War. Unwilling he allows himself to be seduced by a nightclub dancer Rebeca. But then things start to turn nasty.


With its steel grey look, angsty dialogue and sepulchral Euro locations, this desperately wants to be a moody high-art thriller, but comes across as a comic-book copy of a bad Wim Wenders movie. Structured as a series of flashbacks within flashbacks, it tells the story of .a Communist party cadre, Captain Darman (Stamp), summoned to Madrid in 1962 to assassinate a supposed traitor.

Haunted by the memory of a similar event 16 years before, when his killer instinct got the better of his conscience, he is all too willing to be seduced by a young nightclub dancer (Kensit) when she insists all is not as it seems. The action is mainly confined to whispers in dark rooms, coded exchanges, fetishistic sexual contracts (with Kensit performing a particularly ill-advised version of Blame It On Mame), and sudden outbursts of illegible violence.

This wouldn't be so bad if the director hadn't wanted to invest everything with ponderous metaphysical significance, and it almost doesn't matter that Stamp and Kensit are so stilted, given that they are for the most part simply posed against a number of symbolic backdrops. The whole movie hinges on the metaphor of cinema as a form of projection, a shadow-play of beguiling forms. This is often used effectively — as when Darman and his original co-conspirators creep about above a movie theatre so as not to disturb the duped masses below — but it all comes apart in the climax, when Darman's demonic adversary (Gomez) rants and raves against a burning screen like Peter Sellers on acid; if the movie hovers on the edge of absurdity throughout, at least it finally gets there in the end. It's a shame that so many good ideas are thrown aside on the way

Too much emphasis is placed on meaning and metaphor within the film and not enough on encouraging decent performances from the cast.