The Two Faces of January: Movie Review
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac, Kirsten Dunst
Director: Hossein Amini
From the author of The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith, comes a new thriller, that's a three-hander.
Set in 1962 Greece Isaac stars as Rydal, a conman travel guide who spends his time ripping off tourists under his guidance while making his way through the ruins. One day, while guiding a group around, he sets eyes on Mortensen's wealthy Chester MacFarland and his wife Collette (Dunst) and is immediately beguiled by this duo in their crisp cream suits, imagining this is a scam he can pull off.
When Rydal later tries to return a bracelet left by Collette in a taxi, it's a chance meeting that changes all their lives after he discovers Chester's murdered a private detective who's tracked him down amid global fraud charges.
Suddenly, all three of them are on the run - and a rivalry begins between Chester and Rydal over the affections of Collette, which leads to an incredibly dangerous game of trust....
The Two Faces of January is a thriller that's slightly aloof, and not quite as psychologically thrilling as it could be thanks to a lack of chemistry between Dunst and Isaac.
As the inexorable journey towards a predictable denouement continues, Amini wisely chooses to spend the time piling on lashings of Greek tragedy and literary allusions - but at the cost of really building any true suspense between the leads in this tale of extortion, blackmail and framing.
Mortensen delivers a relatively solid performance as MacFarland falls apart under the pressure as his shifty past comes back to haunt him; Isaac impresses as Rydal, a man whose emotional baggage is continually hinted at (albeit in an occasionally heavy handed touch) and Dunst seems to sleepwalk through the piece as the romantic interest that's more third wheel than wedge between the lead protagonists.
The problem is that as the story unfolds, it's more the locations that leave a lot more in your mind than what else is on the screen. There's a fatal lack of tension, paranoia and suspense in the proceedings, leading to a highly indifferent attitude as it speeds to a conclusion. It's due in part to the characters feeling so aloof that you're never quite invested in Rydal's quandary as the implications of his actions become more evident.
While Amini may have delivered a literate thriller and one that's languishing in its own lavishness of locations, The Two Faces of January feels more like a piece which doesn't quite hit the emotional moments it needs to quite pull off the Hitchcockian noir elements it's clearly trying to channel.