Het Tweede Gelaat (2017)

88% – Critics
89% – Audience

Het Tweede Gelaat Storyline

The once unconditional friendship between police officers Vincke and Verstuyft hits a very rough patch when they come up against a series of gruesome murders. Complicating matters even further, a survivor of the killer drives a wedge between them when Verstuyft falls for her charms. Meanwhile, the serial killer has a new victim in sight…

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Het Tweede Gelaat Movie Reviews

The real tough coppers couldn’t care less about “profiling methods”…

“Double Face” is the third, and presumably final, adaptation of a crime/thriller novel by the Belgian author Jef Geeraerts and revolving around the Antwerp police duo – and best buddies – Vincke and Verstuyft. The first one, “De Zaak Alzheimer” (aka “Memory of a Killer”) got released in 2003 and was quite an international success, thanks to the surefooted direction of Erik Van Looy and the reasonably simple fact that people weren’t used to seeing such type of violent and spectacular thrillers coming from Flanders. The follow-up in 2009, “Dossier K.”, was already a lot less popular even though very exhilarating as well, and the replacement director Jan Verheyen also being a skilled professional. The release and reception of this “Double Face” went largely unnoticed in 2017, and the film itself barely surpasses the level of mediocrity as well.

I read a few books by Jef Geeraerts when I was younger, including “Double Face”, and they feature a lot of perverse sex and extreme violence. This film also isn’t for overly sensitive viewers, I’d say, as my wife suffered from some nightmares about human heads on poles and nasty car crashes. You can either take that as a warning, or as a recommendation! In a meadow near Antwerp, the headless and naked corpses of six woman are discovered, and another girl is narrowly rescued when she’s found wandering half-naked, drugged, and very confused in a little village 20 kilometers further. Chief commissioner Vincke doesn’t think the cases are related, but his impulsive assistant Verstuyft is convinced the girl was meant to become the killer’s next victim if he hadn’t been interrupted. While Vincke seeks the help of a Dutch and acclaimed Interpol profiler to find out more about the serial killer, Verstuyft digs into the life of the girl and – of course – falls madly in love with her.

Although director Jan Verheyen and scriptwriter Carl Joos try very hard to constantly mislead the audiences with red herrings, false leads and new clues, the film has severe difficulties to keep the audience alert and interested. There’s a list of reasons for this. The plot features too many dreadful clichés, for starters. The impulsive and unorthodox cop rebels against the profiling methods, the cop sleeps with an important witness in the case, the friendship between the life-long partners is pressurized, etc. The best actors, including Belgium’s finest Koen De Bouw, are also reduced to supportive characters. Commissioner Vincke’s role barely exists of more than blindly following what the Interpol profile suggests and unsuccessfully forcing his buddy Verstuyft to obey. The rest of the police team, all good actors and actresses, are just glorified extras. The (eventual) climax is unpredictable, I’ll admit that, but also very unsatisfying. Call me crazy, but I still think that every killer – even deranged serial killers – need to have some sort of motive or plausible background story, especially the extreme ones that chop off heads and store them in freezers. Here, there isn’t any sort of clarification whatsoever.

Things you may be going through

Some things are easy to see through and I would say, if you’ve seen a couple of thrillers, you won’t have any issues seeing where this is heading. Still the characters are interesting and you can mostly understand their motivation and also can relate in general.

That is until the very end, where it all blows up. Well at least a little bit. Depending on your views of how it ties things together at the end and especially how it resolves them, you may have a problem with the movie. If not, you will be enjoying a crime drama, that is predictable but still has class and good actors in it.

grim, glossy and empty

The police discovers a spot where several decapitated corpses were buried. Once the deceased were women of all ages and all walks of life. While detectives try to make sense of the discovery, a panicked citizen warns authorities that he saw yet another dead woman. However, the second crime scene (if it is indeed a crime scene) does not contain a dead woman, but a living one, in the person of a minor celebrity known for her critical opinions and interviews. Half-naked and confused, she might just as well have fled a particularly wild party…

“Het tweede gelaat” is long on style, atmosphere, gore, violence and sex. Sadly it is short on credibility, logic and coherence. I found at least one major flaw which blows the whole plot out of the water ; doubtlessly other viewers will have identified other inconsistencies and shortcomings. In the movie, detectives suppose that the killer is a person who spent some time in Germany, during time period X, and some time in Belgium, during time period Y. In accordance with this hunch, they draw up a list of possible suspects, which turns out to be very short (let’s say a good dozen of persons.) However, both Germany and Belgium are densely populated ; they’re also friendly neighbouring countries, very much open to the world, which maintain close cultural, economic and commercial relations.

As a result, compiling a more or less reliable list might take weeks, if not months ; and the result might very well consist of hundreds upon hundreds of people. So no, the detectives would not end up with just a few handfuls of suspects ; in real life, they would have to list, trace and investigate a varied and diverse multitude including soldiers, traders, gypsies, stand-up comedians, priests, footballers, dog breeders, diplomats, opera singers, rent boys, bankers, prisoners, patients, nature lovers, exchange students, professors, TV chefs, migrants and political refugees. Good luck fitting THAT into ninety minutes.

Besides, what’s with this current arms race with regard to crime and shock ? Why do we need a serial killer, multiple victims, mutilated corpses ? A really competent thriller could tell a suspenseful and gripping story even about a single crime.

You, dear reader, will have guessed that this review is not going to end in a glowing recommendation. If you do watch the movie, watch it for the well-executed action scenes and pursuits near the end. Or watch it for the architecture and interior design : “Het tweede gelaat” contains many a shot of a Belgian building. Some of the buildings are beautiful or interesting ; other are so hideous that they might scare off the Abominable Snowman. Well, that’s Belgium for you…