"Two Faces Of January", And Neither Is Pretty Review

In 2002, Hossein Amini penned the Heath Ledger epic remake The Four Feathers, then passed nine years before reappearing on the scene with screenwriting turns on Drive, Snow White and the Huntsman, and 47 Ronin in rapid succession. Riding the wave of success, he switched gears and made his feature directorial debut with The Two Faces of January, starring the powerhouse trio of Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and rising star Oscar Isaac. Borrowing heavily from classic Hitchcockian tropes, the slow-burning thriller endeavors to be a location period film of love, intrigue, and danger in the great tradition of To Catch A Thief.

Rydal (Isaac) is a Greek-speaking American student scamming tourists as a guide at Greece’s top sites in 1962. Chester MacFarland (Mortensen) arrives at the Acropolis with his younger wife, Colette (Dunst), and the three slowly spiral together as Colette’s beauty, Chester’s wealth, and their magnetic charm, with just a hint of that foreboding peril, lures Rydal deeper into their lives. Soon enough, Chester needs help moving a body that he claims he laid out in self-defense, and lust, jealousy, and primal struggles aren’t far behind. The film is based on Patricia Highsmith’s book; she who also wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley that was so elegantly brought to the screen by The English Patient’s masterful helmer Anthony Minghella -- lost too soon. Interestingly, Highsmith was also the scribe of Strangers on a Train, and all three films (Strangers, Ripley, and January) have a similar palette with grand international locations, specifically the latter two, principle characters with wealth but secrets, seemingly innocent and ambitious younger roles pulled into the drama, and an unsettling tonality throughout as one sense the inevitable. Amini does a competent job of shepherding good source material to the screen, but when stacked up against Hitchcock and Minghella, one is set up for failure. The film never fully takes off cinematically and died at the domestic box office.


Deleted scenes, bloopers, trailer, and featurettes: Traveling in Style, Shooting the Odyssey, A Twist on the Classic Thriller.

"The Two Faces of January" is on sale January 13, 2015 and is rated PG13. Crime, Drama. Written and directed by Hossein Amini. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac, Viggo Mortensen.

Kyle North • Staff Writer


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