The latest Hollywood film with a stupid name is The Two Faces of January, a dramatic thriller about small-time con man Rydal (Oscar Isaac) who finds himself embroiled in the lives of big-time con man Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst), with whom he begins to fall in love. As opposed to The Two Faces of January Jones, about how everyone hates Betty Draper.
Set in sunny Greece in the early ’60s, because set in the present day the Greek islands would be populated entirely by vomiting British teenagers, the film benefits from its picturesque locations photographed by Marcel Zyskind and classic costumes designed by Steven Noble. Mortensen looks impossibly dashing at 55, oozing coolness from every chiseled inch of his ridiculously handsome face. But enough about my weird love for Viggo Mortensen. Isaac too is brilliantly watchable, even if he looks distractingly similar to Adrien Brody.
But the film seems more interested in tourism than tension, to the point that it could have been funded by the Greek tourist board. Gentle and pretty but devoid of peril, it feels like a holiday, and not a perilous one like a trip to Borneo or a flight with Ryanair.
It aims for Hitchcockian noir but lacks that key Hitchcock ingredient: suspense. This makes the drama seem inconsequential and occasionally dull, while the characters aren’t sufficiently fleshed out for the love-triangle to carry much emotional weight. Perhaps this was better developed in Patricia Highsmith’s source novel, but here we wouldn’t realise Colette and Rydal were meant to be in love were it not for the continuous score, whose droning strings add to the movie’s overall drabness.
The Two Faeces of January is an enjoyable if one-note thriller, let down by its total lack of intrigue and plot holes the size of Crete. The directorial debut of Iranian-British screenwriter Hossein Amini, who penned the excellent Drive, this leaves you with the feeling that everyone involved is capable of much greater work. Apart from Kirsten Dunst.