The Two Faces of January

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The Two Faces of January (2014)

Colette (Kirsten Dunst) and Chester (Viggo Mortensen) seem like your perfect couple. Traveling in Greece, they are well to do tourists who are enjoying their second honeymoon. Chester is a little more reserved than his outgoing wife, but both enjoy being in each other’s company, trying to soak up everything that the famous city of Athens has to offer.

When we first meet Rydel (Oscar Isaac), an American with Greek origins, we see a man who is sizing up the tourists. Rydel is looking for the biggest and possibly easiest couple that he thinks he can make the most money off of. He sets his sights on Colette and Chester, offering to help them get the best price in the marketplace. Rydel does cut a deal, but he pockets a good portion of the money Chester gives him, using a sleight of hand money exchange with the merchant. Chester calls him out on it but to Rydel’s surprise, instead of demanding the money back, Chester invites Rydel to join him and his wife for dinner. Rydel accepts but will soon regret meeting the couple, as it seems Rydel isn’t the only one of the group that has a hidden agenda. It’s an agenda that could cost Rydel his life.

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The Two Faces of January

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

“The Two Faces of January” is a stylish thriller that is long on appearance but, unfortunately, is short of on a storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 20 or so minutes of this film, and I wanted to see where the film would go, once the major plot point revealed itself. Unfortunately, like a bad tour guide, the film looks beautiful with its travels through some gorgeous historical places but never takes you where you truly want to go. The biggest problem with this film is we just don’t care for any of the characters. We never get fully vested into the characters, so what happens to them doesn’t matter. Too often, the director / writer Hossein Amini, hits us over the head with plot points, when a much subtle hand would have made the film much richer and interesting.

The Two Faces of January

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Of the three main actors, Oscar Isaac playing the in over his head Rydel, comes closest to getting us to care about his character. But Amini doesn’t give him enough to work with and Rydel, instead of the sympathetic character, comes off a little dense and shallow. There is good chemistry between Isaac and Dunst, but is offset by the lack of spark between Mortensen and Dunst. Instead of two characters that are in sync due to their having spent time together, it’s as if husband and wife have just met on a blind date. Dunst isn’t given much to work with either, having to play Colette as a hapless victim. Mortensen gives the most unsatisfying performance of the three, chewing up scenery where a lighter touch would have been a better choice.

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The Two Faces of January

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

This is a beautiful film and cinematographer Marcel Zyskind perfectly captures the magnificence of the locations. Bathing the film in subtle yellows and browns combined with gorgeous costumes by Steven Noble, it’s a film that makes you want to go visit these places. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make you care about the characters and what happens to them. The film’s incredible look contrasts badly with a story line that is dull and listless.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee 

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

“The Two Faces of January” is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

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