The Burnt Orange Heresy review – Mick Jagger adds dash of malice to arty thriller

Peter Bradshaw
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Jose Haro/AP</span>
Photograph: Jose Haro/AP

A sprightly and mischievous cameo from Mick Jagger is one reason to enjoy this movie. Donald Sutherland’s brief performance as a reclusive artist is another. It’s a suspense drama-thriller from Oscar-nominated screenwriter Scott Smith who has adapted the 1971 novel by crime author Charles Willeford. Claes Bang plays a somewhat raffish and disreputable Milan-based art critic, James Figueras. He is an egotistical individual with a morbid fear of flies (probably because of a sense of his own insignificance, buzzing parasitically around the greatness of artists).

Figueras is having a passionate affair with a beautiful American, Berenice (Elizabeth Debicki), who dropped in to one of Figueras’s breezy, specious lectures and was amused in spite of herself. Figueras asks if she will come with him for the weekend to the home of Joseph Cassidy (Jagger), a fabulously wealthy art dealer and connoisseur who has just extended a mysterious invitation to Figueras to visit him at his gorgeous lakeside villa. Cassidy’s invitation is due to the fact that he has a secret houseguest, the legendary, reclusive painter Jerome Debney (Sutherland) who now lives in a cabin on Cassidy’s estate, working on paintings that he will show no one and Debney has a capricious interest in Figueras’s posturing columns in the press. But Cassidy himself has a terrible, Mephistophelean proposition to put to Figueras – who is in no position to refuse.

It’s an entertaining and eventful melodrama with some thoughts on art that might put you in mind of Yasmina Reza’s stage-play named after the subject. And Jagger, though never quite an actor as such, puts in a very good-humoured and game performance that takes this beyond stunt casting, playing the manipulative art dealer, spring-heeled with athletic malice, grinning like a relief map of the Lake District and with a distinct whiff of sulphur about him. It would be great to have Keith Richards play the aged, cantankerous, whiskery painter Debney. But you can’t have everything.

• The Burnt Orange Heresy is in cinemas from 30 October.