A lukewarm parable about the contemporary workforce in Milan, Intrepido: A Lonely Hero is a rather disposable trifle following Antonio (Antonio Albanese), a middle-aged optimist whose sole mode of sustenance is hopping from one temporary job to the next, bantering with co-workers in one setting while bartering with a pizzeria owner in another to keep his job. Writer-director Gianni Amelio establishes the proceedings with a perceptive eye for composition and pacing, curiously and almost elliptically setting Antonio against a variety of backdrops that imbue the film’s visuals, especially in an opening long shot of a snowy urban street, with a tactility mirroring the protagonist’s “hands of gold,” as one employer calls them. Albanese’s performance beams with a sincerity that’s clearly meant to recall any number of comparable cinematic clowns, from Charlie Chaplin to Jacques Tati to Roberto Benigni. As much becomes clear given Antonio’s jack-of-all-trades aims, to the extent that when he happens upon a pair of electricians, he inquires whether there’s a manual that could teach him the profession.
For Antonio, work isn’t merely a means to an end, but a hobby unto itself that ultimately earns the laboring transient very few monetary gains. Although ungainly and peculiar, the narrative’s initial promise is rooted in a comedic explication of capitalism’s utter disregard for even its most fervent proponents, as Antonio seems to earn the allegiance of none, despite his desires to do precisely the contrary. Instead of exploring these questions to provocative ends, Amelio bogs down into a family drama that’s neither supplementary to the film’s initial quest or a fulfilling substitute. That includes the introduction of Ivo (Gabriele Rendina), Antonio’s son, whose dedication to playing the saxophone consumes his time and efforts at the expense of seeing his father for more than brief periods of time. Their relationship isn’t hostile; in fact, early in the film, they share a drink and a laugh while discussing Antonio’s upcoming comprehensive exam. Nevertheless, Amelio uses their relationship as a source for facile tension, which culminates in the film’s unremarkable dénouement.
Similarly useless to the film’s initial premise is Lucia (Livia Rossi), whom Antonio meets while taking his exams. The pair strike up a friendship that initially appears to promise romance, but their subsequent scenes of banter grow increasingly innocuous and pallid, before an unusual turn ends their relationship altogether. Instead of relating these developments to the film’s originary statements regarding class and economics, it’s played more for a basic moment of forlorn despondency for Antonio. Much like the jobs that come and go, Antonio has interactions with numerous other characters, including a young boy and an old boxing coach who incoherently tells Antonio at a key point that a “mean-minded man is a shitty man.” The entirety of Intrepido is about as equally garbled.