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Two Faces of January, The


Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac, Kirsten Dunst, David Warshofsky, Daisy Bevan, James Sobol Kelly

Director: Hossein Amini

This adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith thriller starts promisingly enough. Rydal (Isaac), a young American estranged from his family back home, is earning a living as a tour guide in Athens when he encounters rich fellow Americans Chester (Mortensen) and his delectable wife Colette (Dunst).

Attracted to the wife (and their money), Rydal becomes the couple's unofficial guide to markets and ancient ruins, using his fluent Greek to line his own pockets while helping them to 'bargains'.

Going back to their hotel to return a bracelet Colette has left (on purpose?) in his taxi, Rydal stumbles into a situation that will change his life. Chester, a swindler, who has rooked clients by selling them oil shares that do not exist, has been confronted by a private detective (Warshofsky) whom he accidentally kills, pretending to both Colette and Rydal that the man is not dead.

He and his wife need to get out of the country, having bewilderingly left their passports at the hotel, and Rydal, still with one eye on the wife, foolishly agrees to help, arranging fake passports for which he will inevitably take a cut.

So far so good, even if far from feasible.

After the first 40 minutes, though, the film becomes exceptionally languorous under the Greek sun as the trio journeys towards Heraklion in Crete, and the fake passports, things not picking up until a Third Man-style chase at the end.

The protracted pace drains whatever suspense may have existed in these situations, and the plot device of the trio leaving the bus on the way to Heraklion is thin to say the least. Performances are fine, but all in all, you feel you'd rather have a Greek holiday.

David Quinlan

UK/USA/France 2013. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour (unspecified).
96 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 May 2014