At this point we'll take Hitchcock Lite over what passes for thrillers these days.
“The Two Faces of January,” out Jan. 13 on Blu-ray, trumpets its Alfred Hitchcock spirit in the press materials. It’s not just baited prose. We’ve got an icy blonde with a secret or two, gorgeous locales and the kind of dark twists the master would have lapped up.
Only the Hitchcock comparisons run cold after a spell.
“January” is still well worth a look, if only for a sumptuous peek at the Parthenon and other Greek destinations. This is one gorgeous film, a sentiment that extends to its pretty love triangle.
Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst play Chester and Colette, a stylish couple vacationing in Greece circa 1962. They’re cozy, the way newlyweds often appear, but all that canoodling is undone when a stranger pays them a visit.
Seems Chester’s business dealings fall on the shady side, and soon the couple is on the run. Good thing they met an affable tour guide earlier in their visit. Rydal (Oscar Isaac) is a grifter of sorts, but his connections come in handy when they need an exit strategy.
Just how crooked is Chester’s wheeling and dealing? Does Coletter fancy the handsome Rydal? And is Rydal playing them both, or does he truly feel for their plight?
It’s a terrific setup, so good you’ll be distracted from the film’s missteps. Why don’t Dunst and Isaac set off sparks as the story suggests? Shouldn’t we connect with the father-son theme trotted out for us?
Some of the more tense moments depend on the kind of eye rolling coincidences that would sink lesser films. That hardly matter as Mortensen flashes movie star charm aplenty. He manages to look sophisticated even as the sweat stains spread across his cream-colored suit. And Isaac, always an intriguing presence, balances Rydal’s emotional ride in ways that are wholly plausible.
It all ends as you more or less expect, and yet the buzzy nature of those old-school pleasures are tough to shake.
Alberto Iglesias’ score keeps that retro spirit afloat, while the cinematography gives the story more bite than it often deserves. Director Hossein Amini is having a blast with his locales, and it makes the film radiate warmth and danger in HD.
“The Two Faces of January,” as the actors insist in several Blu-ray extras, is the kind of movie Hollywood used to make. Too bad the best of that subset lap “January” in terms of cinematic panache.
Those extras allow us to see the style choices behind the production, including some intriguing perspectives on the clothes and hairstyles. We even get an incongruous blooper reel, the kind of visual goodie you might see in a Judd Apatow comedy Blu-ray.
It’s a shame Hitchcock couldn’t craft some beguiling extras for his own screen classics.
DID YOU KNOW: ‘The Two Faces of January’ is based on the book by Patricia Highsmith of ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ fame. She also published a lesbian love story under the pseudonym Claire Morgan in 1952 called ‘The Price of Salt.’
HiT Blu-ray Review: ‘The Two Faces of January’