“THE TWO FACES of January” is a nonsensical B movie non-thriller that at least lives up to its name: one face displays the style and period clothes (it’s set in 1962) of a high concept mystery. The other reveals its truer self: a badly written made-for-video movie with brand name stars (Viggo Mortensen as con-man Chester; Kirsten Dunst as Colette, his clueless wife and Oscar Isaac, so good as Llewin Davis as Rydal, an American drifter and part time tourist guide)
The said two faces refer to Viggo’s Chester and Llewin’s Rydal. Chester we discover is on the run (somewhere in sun-drenched Greece) having fleeced gullible investors back in the US. By chance he encounters Rydal – another American and as the story labours to point out, a mini version of himself, engaged in small-time hustles of unsuspecting tourists.
They’re two sides of the same coin. Get it?
It’s when a private investigator turns up at his hotel and is accidentally killed by Chester that on the run turns into sweaty flight.
Chester and Colette leave the hotel hurriedly without first reclaiming their passports (Huh? Why not simply check out?). Thank goodness they have the assistance of Rydal who, though he doesn’t know them, helps Chester stash the dead PI (who he thinks is just a drunk that Chester is simply helping like any Good Samaritan would). He then locates a friend who happens to make forged passports. (Hey anyone would do that for a passing stranger. No questions asked.) As for wife, Colette, she’s just too oh so full of bubbly spirit, to actually either notice or care what’s happening until the penny finally drops half way through the movie, after which point her expression shifts from giddy delight to perplexity.
But these are important expressions, call them facial tics. They won the heart of Rydal. Who’d have thunk it? This callow hustler dumped a beautiful and wealthy ‘find’, sourced the forged passports and decided to go on the lam with her and Chester because he’d fallen in love. How touching.
Now maybe I’ve seen too many B movies, but the first rule of running from the law is to change your look. Especially when your face is front-page news. But Chester is as dumb a blonde as his wife and he insists on wearing the same cream-coloured I-am-a-foreigner-on-holiday suit throughout.
Which leads to various chases in dark alleys accompanied by the quivering violins of composer Alberto Iglesias (a famous name who’s composed for some famous movies such as “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “The Constant Gardner”).
At least we can be thankful that the movie’s short: it comes in at just 90 minutes or so.
Seems director Hossein Amini himself (writer of other masterworks such as “Snow White and the Huntsman” “47 Ronin” and “Drive”) realized, like his characters, he too needed to cut bait and run.