Mute Witness Movie Review
Nothing was boding well for first-time feature film writer/director Anthony Waller (even this morning's screening was plagued with difficulties). But eventually, everything worked out, and Mute Witness has finally hit the big screen.
After such an ominous start, you might be expecting a dismal film. Or, you might be the optimist and expect a gem. Mute Witness is neither. (At least they didn't call it Speak No Evil, completing the trilogy of "handicapped victim of a killer" flicks.)
The story is catchy: an American, mute (not deaf) special effects/makeup artist, Billy Hughes (Russian actress Marina Sudina), is working in Moscow on a film. Trapped in the studio after hours, she witnesses a snuff film in the making, or so she thinks. After escaping from the bad guys, she tells her sister (Fay Ripley), her director/boss (Evan Richards), and the cops, but no one believes her story. Regardless, an enigmatic man known as The Reaper (the "Mystery Guest Star"--I won't spoil it), who organized said snuffing, wants Billy killed, and the chase is on.
Making the film-within-a-film in a Russian setting puts a few unique spins on the classic stalker movie. First (and worst) is lots and lots of Russian dialogue, which I'm doubting many American viewers will understand. Second is a fair amount of obvious improvisation on the screen, which tends to make the plot quite difficult to follow at times, particularly when it goes off on its blackmail/double-cross tangent at the end of the film. Fortunately, the money saved on shooting in impoverished Russia allowed Waller to spend it on some cool photography, a nice score, and some of the best Russian actors the country has to offer.
I really enjoyed Sudina's performance, and given that she has no lines, it's easy to mistake her for a seasoned American pro, rather than a Russian novice. Supporting performances are fine, and Waller's clever direction always gives us something interesting to look at, even if you the script doesn't make any sense.
All-in-all, Mute Witness is a fair first effort, but believe me, it's better than a lot of the crap Hollywood is passing off as thrillers these days. (Note: In Russian, English, and sign language(!) without subtitles.)