Written by: Niall Browne, Special to CC2K
Faces in the Crowd is actress Milla Jovovich’s latest attempt to try and branch out beyond her usual action efforts (like the Resident Evil franchise) and try to show that she has what it takes to be a leading lady, who doesn’t just kick-ass and kill zombies, but who, you know, acts. It’s a noble aim, but the film is a failure on almost every level.
Jovovich stars as Anna, a school teacher who has a run-in with serial killer “Tearjerk Jack”. She survives, but during the struggle she suffers a blow to the head, leaving her with “Prosopagnosia”(face blindness), a condition which means that she is unable to remember faces – not good when the killer could be lurking around every corner. It really is as preposterous as it sounds.
Set in New York (and clearly shot in Canada) Faces in the Crowd is a French/Canadian co-production that ticks every box on the cat and mouse thriller sub-genre, but delivers nothing in the way of originality. Red hearings come and go, until the inevitable climax, which surprisingly takes place in the same location where Anna first met the killer.
Faces in the Crowd comes off as a mid-nineties direct-to-video effort, with a predictable plot and atrocious acting, and most of the blame must surely land at the door of writer/director Julien Magnat. Magnat’s choices come off as poor and confusing, for instance, when Jovovich’s Anna turns away from an actor, by the time she returns her gaze it’s another person. Now, this idea may have induced high fives and applause during the film’s production meetings, but onscreen it’s just distracting and surely there’s a drinking game to be had here. While, Magnat’s decision to offer every actor in Winnipeg a line of dialogue is a distraction, it is almost surpassed by co-star Julian McMahon’s glue-on facial hair – a trait that makes his Detective Kerrest the only face that Anna remembers. That is until he inexplicably decides to “shave it off” two-thirds of the way through the movie.
It is at this point where the film takes an odd detour, to Kerrest’s childhood home, and it’s obvious from the clichéd dialogue why they chose to have the detective take our heroine to this remote location. It might have worked, had the story not dictated that pair return to the big city for the tension free denouement.
Faces in the Crowd takes itself far too seriously, with its lacklustre production design and flat cinematography only highlighting the cheapness of it all. It also has some truly atrocious special effects and “screen shots”, which are totally unnecessary, and again only shows how poor it all really is.
Jovovich clearly wants to play against type here, and she also serves as Executive Producer, however her inability to choose good material and her limitations as an actress let her down. Faces in the Crowd is for die-hard Jovovich fans, who can’t wait to see their favourite actress in the next Resident Evil film. Everyone else should look elsewhere.
Nothing except the trailer.