Palimpsest is billed as a "hypnotic mystery" on the DVD cover, because "tired cop thriller" doesn't have the same ring to it. Director Konrad Niewolski manages to dredge up a couple compelling moments from a stale script, and he has a solid cast to keep the movie at least moderately engaging, but overall it's a stale mess of almost abstract confusion that yanks the wrong rug out from under the audience exactly when we most expect it.
The plot is taken directly from the Multiple-Choice Screenwriting Handbook: Marek (Andrzej Chyra) is a cop who is troubled by: a) a failed/unsolved case b) the death of his partner c) bad dreams. This has resulted in his a) drinking problem b) sleeping problem c) drug addiction, and left him estranged from his a) lover, b) children c) co-workers. Assigned to a new case, he starts to have trouble a) separating right from wrong b) discerning dreams from reality c) proving his wild theories to everyone else. Check, check, check.
Palimpest endeavors to be a lot of things, but more than anything, it's various shades of green and black, the only two colors cinematographer Arkadiusz Tomiak was apparently comfortable using. It has the same pea-soup color palette as some of the Saw movies, which is exceptionally boring to look at after about five minutes. Occasionally, Marek has a bout of psychotic vision, and bright whites are actually appealingly startling, but then it's back to the film's turgid visual style. As far as the visions themselves go, they're executed with the finesse of a music video. I didn't hate it, but they're nothing I haven't seen done better in superior movies. Chyra, meanwhile, is a perfectly watchable leading man. I wouldn't call his performance "magnetic" or anything, but his amiable presence is probably what sustained me as the movie drags on.
The ultimate question is, "will he be able to handle the shocking truth?" In cop movies, all truths must be shocking. Sadly, Palimpest's denouement ranks at the very bottom of the shock-o-meter. The second to last scene, post-twist, is actually kind of nice thanks to the performances of Chyra and actress Magdalena Cielecka, but the film insists on ending with one last confusing beat just in case we've forgotten how edgy and intense the film is.
When the movie ended, I wasn't sure I had grasped every last little bit of it, but I don't care enough to see it again and find out. Anyone looking for an unheard of, cool little thriller they can Netflix can keep looking, because there's almost nothing on display here I won't forget by tomorrow.
The DVD comes in a standard case with intriguing, albeit blurry cover artwork on the front. The back features a stained-glass window that looks more like a fly's wing and might inadvertently scare some people away, but design-wise is otherwise straightfoward. The disc repeats the cover art, and the menu is as basic as they come. There is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Unforgivably, Palimpsest, only two years old as I write this in 2009, is presented in non-anamorphic 2.35:1 letterbox. It looks like something pulled from a videotape from years ago: a soft, fuzzy mess. Aliasing popped up frequently in background items, and a surprising amount of print damage is present too. Admittedly, none of these flaws make it impossible to discern what's happening on screen (the image is very dark, but I didn't feel like I missed or was unable to see anything), but this is a shockingly poor effort. Audio is 2.0 and sounds tinny and flat, and to add insult to injury, the English subtitles are -- you guessed it -- burned into the video. Awful.
A photo gallery lasts a monumental fifteen seconds (!) and features about eight photos. I'm shocked they bothered. If that wasn't enough to kill your bonus feature craving, there is a massive thirty-nine second gallery of Cinema Epoch DVD covers set up the exact same way.
Skip it. Palimpsest is uninspired and the DVD is substandard in all regards.
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