Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Mute Witness" - Lookin' for a good thriller?

Billy, a mute make-up artist, is with an American movie crew in Moscow. One night, she's locked inside the studio they've rented. She soon finds a small, active film set, and blushes: they're filming porn! Yet Billy sees horror in an actress' eyes as her co-star plays rough, then draws a knife. Billy's sure that she saw a real murder, and that she's in danger - she can't scream, but she can still make noise.

Long ago, I'd jump on any excuse to visit the Angelika, an arthouse theater in the Village. The trailers for this movie seemed exciting and tense, playing nicely with the sound design. So began my happy little relationship with this small-budget piece. What a pleasant surprise!

The cast has perhaps only one "real" name. The other actors were unknown to me. It's actually very refreshing, and they performed nicely. At times, the movie feels like it's trying to emulate Hitchcock - that's not offensive, it's merely lofty. Certainly, the film-makers nailed two things effectively - "Mute Witness" is very suspenseful and quite fun.

The quality may drop a few times, but it never ruins the mood. The movie amps up the tension and keeps things moving at a good pace. Everything - the small budget, unknown cast, and atmosphere - works in favor of this picture. My biggest complaint was a wish to see more of the Russian setting; I love foreign scenery.

If you don't like thrillers, then this movie isn't for you. But you're in good luck if you would enjoy a nifty and creative flick that's high on tension. In fact, I liked it more than 2003's "Haute Tension." Note that as a product of the 90's, this is no "Hostel" gore-fest - just a really good, unexpected ride.

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