365 DAYS (2020) – My fellow fans of bad movies have long been leaving comments and sending emails encouraging me to review Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m glad I delayed, because now I can review this even worse book and film series.
You may be wondering why, if I could resist reviewing the tale of a hundred-year-old vampire and a shirt-challenged werewolf fighting over a hopelessly bland teen girl, why have I decided to go ahead and review 365 Days and its sequels? And you may be wondering why, if I could resist reviewing the tale of a deranged billionaire stalker and the hopelessly bland object of his fixation, why have I decided to go ahead and review 365 Days and its sequels?
I can answer with one word … pierogie!
As my last name indicates, I am of Polish-American descent and with the scene where the abducted woman in the 365 Days franchise demands that her gangster captor provide her with “Normal food … pierogie!” I knew I had found my muse! Even though I never got the hoped-for line “Leave the gun. Take the kielbasa.”
On behalf of all “my people” I would like to apologize to the world for Poland unleashing the 365 Days books and movies on an unsuspecting world. Blanka Lipinska authored the first novel in the franchise in 2018 and followed up with the sequel 365 Days: This Day later that same year.
The year 2019 saw the release of the third book in the series, The Next 365 Days, and since the movie version of part three has come out recently, I was ready to review! Come with me now, as “Laters, baby!” is replaced with “Are you lost, baby gurl?”
THE STORY: 365 Days opens up as Italian crime family prince Massimo Torricelli (Michele Morrone, from the Italian word for … nah, too easy.) is on one of the many beautiful beaches that this series takes place on. His father is giving him a VERY poor man’s version of Don Corleone’s speech to Michael about how he needs to be ready to inherit the family responsibilities, including their ongoing war with rival families.
Massimo is only half-listening because he can’t keep his
eyes binoculars off of the beautiful Polish woman Laura Biel (Anna-Maria Sieklucka), who is cavorting on the beach. Papa Torricelli is shot to death by a sniper whose shot MUST have been fired from about 50 feet in mid-air the way the scene is filmed.
And so, with his father’s blood on his expensive shirt and a bulge in his designer pants, Massimo pursues war with his crime family’s enemies AND tries to track down the beautiful Polish woman whose angelic face he remembers looking down at him when she was among the crowd of gawkers who came running to see what all the gunfire was about. (True story – this is exactly how my parents met. I’m KIDDING!)
Since circumstances are not conducive to a hook-up, Massimo spends the next few years waging war and looking for the woman whose face and form have haunted him since that day on the beach. (“Something about shooting … Something about always …” Had to be said.)
Our frowny-faced male lead even has artists paint hilariously accurate portraits of the woman he saw only briefly on a very traumatic day, and these portraits line the walls of many of Massimo’s plush mansions.
We now properly meet Laura Biel, the undeniably seductive lady who haunts our gangster chief. Laura is a Polish (Have I mentioned that?) businesswoman whose exact line of business is supposedly legitimate but come to think of it we never get any real indication of what kind of company she runs. She’s just the author’s “confident and independent businesswoman” self-insert.
Laura’s bald and slovenly boyfriend Martin is exasperating our hot heroine by neglecting her, even on her birthday! Laura walks off in disgust that night and, by sheer chance, bumps into Massimo. The man’s smooth opening line after at last coming face to face with the object of his obsession is “Are you lost, baby gurl?”
NOTE: Massimo will pepper all kinds of “baby gurl” remarks all through these movies and it made me laugh every damn time! When he says them, he sounds like the comedic character Alki Stereoupolos on the old SCTV show. (“Heyh, bebby, whud’s heppenin?”)
Laura is smitten, but walks on a bit, and when she can’t resist looking back at the hunky Massimo he’s vanished, like Batman in the movies. I was hoping we’d get a shot of an exhausted, huffing and puffing Massimo around the corner, having run his ass off to accomplish that dramatic disappearing act. But I’m kind of weird.
Okay, I’ll pick up the pace. Soon, Massimo has his goons abduct Laura and take her to his mansion in Sicily. They also pack up all her belongings and leave a fake note saying she is leaving Martin. All well and good, but there’s no reason her family and business associates wouldn’t report her missing. In the real world, anyway, but not in this absurd story.
When Laura comes to and is greeted by the tall, dark and handsome man she casually bumped into, she notices the many portraits of herself that her captor has on his walls, alongside portraits of himself, in one of them petting a lion. I’m serious.
Next, Torricelli addresses Laura with the words every woman longs to hear – “You had a bad reaction to the sedative.” The continental lothario follows up by saying “I didn’t know you had a weak heart.” If that doesn’t charm you ladies, ponder another of Massimo’s lines to Laura – “I won’t tie you up, but don’t provoke me.”
Long story short, Massimo tells Laura that she is to live with him for 365 days, and if she is not in love with him by the end of that year, the pizza’s free. I mean, he says he will let her go.
He promises he won’t do anything to her without her permission (but he does, anyway) and he will pamper her and spoil her all the while. If you define her not being allowed to go where she wants, or contact anyone from her previous life “pampering and spoiling her.”
In real life she’d be searched for and after several years declared dead. In 365 Days’ parallel universe, it’s enough that Torricelli provides her friends and family with a vague explanation that she’s busy establishing a new business in another country. Uh. Yeah. No problem.
Both of our leads are excellent physical specimens, but they can’t act, so, instead, the 365 Days movies try to convey the emotions and events mostly through montages. Endless montages. Montages as numerous as the sands on a beach.
I’m not kidding. About every 5 or 6 minutes we get pop songs accompanying montages of these beautiful people in beautiful locations doing very ugly things. Laura’s idea of asserting herself is to treat Massimo’s underlings shabbily and have him take her on extravagant shopping sprees. You go, conspicuous consumer!
Every so often, the movie remembers that Torricelli is at war with other gangsters and we get scenes of shootings and other violence. At one point Massimo is about to torture and kill a subordinate gangster who has been embezzling money.
He has him chained to a wheel-like piece of stone statuary in his mansion’s basement and tells him that he wouldn’t kill the man just for stealing from him, but because the punk sells 12-year-old girls into sex slavery. (Massimo, you’ll NEVER get to be the Democrats’ candidate for president with that kind of an attitude!)
Blah, blah, blah, eventually Laura falls overboard from Massimo’s yacht and he dives in to save her because her “weak heart” supposedly hinders her ability to swim. (Yet it will never interfere with the Olympic gymnastics routines that these two call sex.)
With her Stockholm Syndrome now complete, Laura consummates her relationship with Massimo. More time and many montages later, she is still not 100% enthusiastic about her life as a homicidal gangster’s prisoner, if you can believe it!
To add a bit of Beauty and the Beast to this storyline, Laura at one point returns to Poland and surprises her friend Olga (who will be a major character in the series from this point onward), at Olga’s apartment.
She tells Olga all about what has REALLY been happening to her while everyone she used to know assumed she was doing Business Stuff in a country that apparently lacked phones, post offices and internet access.
Naturally, Olga does the sensible thing. She TAKES LAURA ON A SHOPPING, MAKEOVER AND DRINKING BINGE! Needless to say, we get a montage showing all this. And please note, the flamboyantly gay hairdressers who attend to Laura and Olga are not the same flamboyantly gay hairdressers who attended to Laura during her captivity at the hands of Torricelli.
Laura temporarily gets a shorter, blonde hairdo, which, as every reviewer notes, is exactly the kind of hair style that author Blanka Lipinska sported at the time, further cementing the self-insert nature of the whole affair. Lipinska has even made hilarious claims that the events in 365 Days are based on real-life experiences.
Before long, our heroine’s former boyfriend Martin (“What up?”) learns she is back in Poland and seeks her out. And now, just like the Fifty Shades of Grey series liked to pretend that Christian was somehow better than the other abusive males who threaten his victim, Massimo shows up in time to save Laura from an angry and pushy Martin. What a guy!
Amid montages galore, we arrive at a reconciliation between Laura and her captor. One night at a nightclub back in Italy, Massimo shoots a rival gangster in a fit of rage over the man’s attentions to Laura.
One day (scenes rarely seem to lead logically from one to the next) a happy Massimo and Laura are attending a wedding. Also in attendance are Laura’s mother and father, who meet Torricelli for the first time and assume he’s joking when his reply to their inquiries about what he does for a living is “I’m a gangster.”
Apparently, Laura is pregnant by now, so she and Massimo decide to get married. At this point in the movie he’s back to keeping her well and truly isolated from anyone in her old life, but “tolerantly” agrees to let her best friend Olga be on hand for their wedding. (Nope, she doesn’t want her parents there, just Olga.)
As the day of the wedding arrives, the movie remembers that Massimo shot that gangster who got creepy with Laura, and as Torricelli, in formal wear, awaits the shopping (?) Laura and Olga, he and his tuxedo-clad friends start throwing around a football. I’m KIDDING, but I would have declared this to be the greatest movie in history if it HAD included such a shoutout to the hilariously bad movie The Room.
(Getting back to the fact that Laura and her friend are out shopping while preparations for the ceremony were taking place, it made me wonder: Do women really have so much free time on their wedding day that they can sneak in some casual last-minute shopping right before walking down the aisle?)
In the only decently staged part of the movie, the happy and laughing Laura and Olga drive into a tunnel on their way back to Massimo’s mansion for the ceremony. We get silent shots of Torricelli, by implication being informed by his underlings that the crime family of the man he shot in the nightclub have had Laura and her friend whacked.
I’m not joking when I say that this final bit is nicely done. Massimo even does a decent job of conveying his grief. If this wasn’t connected to the rest of the movie it would be great.
We close with overhead shots of a police vehicle with a flashing roof light outside the tunnel we saw Laura and Olga drive into. The cop car is blocking traffic while an obvious investigation is taking place at the scene, tastefully confirming for viewers that the unthinkable happened to our heroine on her wedding day.
As we get a shot of the Mediterranean Sea, the credits roll.
Obviously, with the success of the first novel, the sequel revealed that Laura and Olga had just been injured, not killed, and the asinine saga continued. I’ll review the second movie in the series soon.
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