Film Noir Lives! “The Two Faces of January”

The Two Faces of January (2014) is an old-style thriller, or Technicolor film noir, set in 1962 and dealing with an elegant swindler who unknowingly digs a deep hole for himself and his wife.

Original screenplays usually don’t tell a story this meritorious, and sure enough the flick is an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel (directed by Hossein Amini).  With locations of Crete and Athens, it is a gorgeous, humorless Beat the Devil, a classy near-potboiler.

Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac are humanizingly true as unscrupulous men, but Kirsten Dunst is not as effective as she has been in the recent past.  Although she certainly looks like an early 60s glamour puss, her acting is too routine, too ordinary.

I wish to add January to my list of Honorable Mention movies for 2014.  Critics who have yammered about it are the kind who would give a pass to old, better-known Hollywood thrillers with the same “defects.”


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