Mute Witness Movie Review

The making of Mute Witness must have been an incredible process. The first shots were taken back in 1985, when a chance encounter with the film's "Mystery Guest Star" led to some on-the-fly cinematography. In 1993, principal photography began in Moscow, only to be interrupted by "fines" in customs, Boris Yeltsin's "October Revolution," -23 degree weather, a diphtheria epidemic, a drug addicted actor, and another with kidney disease.

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.)

Comments

teale's picture

teale

watched this movie on a lark..it was free on demand...i had a few hours to kill before a recital and was i surprised...i really enjoyed it...i found my heart beating rapidly during the hide and seek scenes...it was a good thriller and kept one guessing to the end...

7 years 9 months ago
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Movie Buff's picture

Movie Buff

Was just switching channels and chanced upon this movie showing on HBO. Missed about the first 15mins of the film, anyway ... after watching about 10 mins into the film I was hooked.Best actor in the movie was the lead, Marina Sudina. A great actor will make you feel for her character, and she did that job brilliantly despite not uttering a single word. Excellent casting IMHO.It was also the director, Anthony Waller's first time direction. Good first time effort.The first half of the movie was edge-of-your-seat tension and suspense. Especially when Marina's character was playing cat-and-mouse trying to evade her pursuers. I caught myself holding my breath quite a few times. Unfortunately this pace was not maintained, and the 2nd half was a bit of letdown (sometimes just plain goofy), but still reasonably watchable.It is still highly recommended, for Marina's performance, and the first-half's nail-biting scenes.

6 years 8 months ago
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Mute Witness Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 1995

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