Where? That’s three monkeys, then, that this movie owes us. (Even symbolically, these characters certainly hear, see and speak evil.) A lugubrious noir shot in a brackish tint, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest has a framework reminiscent of a tawdry James Cain novel but lacks the pitch of urgency to get it off its dramatic duff. Dad (Bingol) is a driver who takes the fall for his asleep-behind-the-wheel politico boss involved in a vehicular manslaughter. A “lump sum” is promised on the back end; in the interim, there’s jail time, a wayward wife seeking companionship (Aslan) and a layabout son (Sungar) who’s flunked his college-entrance exams and needs cash fast.
It all goes south in a paternal postprison fury, and Ceylan, the pride of Turkey’s art-house cinema, plays every domestic browbeating for pure ponderousness. He already has a stunner in his filmography, 2002’s cohabitation satire Distant, yet there’s a distinct sense that with his follow-up, Climates (2006), and this one, Ceylan hasn’t quite figured out his next move. Vengeful plot machinations feel both tidy and fraught with unearned significance; also, the occasional thunderclaps are a bit much. Calling Three Monkeys a genre detour is putting it charitably; it’s a downbeat dead end that reduces its talented maker to a mere shadow-play stylist.—Joshua Rothkopf