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Overall Rating
3.33

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 11.11%
Average77.78%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings


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Missing Person, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Either too straight or too silly."
3 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2009: "The Missing Person" suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, which is only fitting, as it parallels that of the main character. Its jumps between mystery and parody don't do it many favors, even if it has some very good moments of each.

John Rosow (Michael Shannon) is an ex-cop from New York now working as a private detective in Chicago. Well, it's what would be on his business cards if he were the business-card type; he's not doing much of anything, really. He gets a call about a job, with details delivered by one Miss Charley (Amy Ryan). It turns out to be following one Harold Fullmer (Frank Wood) on a train to Los Angeles, but things are more than they seem: There's a couple of federal agents (Liza Weil and Daniel Franzese) following Harold as well, and Harold's got a kid with him.

John is a throwback to the private eyes of the old pulp and film noirs, sometimes to the point where the audience might wonder if there's a deleted subplot about him being trapped in some sort of cryonic freeze for forty or fifty years. Would an ex-cop in 2008 really be so astounded that you can take pictures with mobile phones and then send them to other people? There are fun bits as well, mostly based on his coming off like a blunt object but either thinking he's smarter than that or maybe actually being so. Michael Shannon doesn't take the character completely over the top into caricature, so the feeling is a little more along the lines of this sort of guy never dying out most of the time.

That's good, because we do need to be able to believe that this guy is capable of handling a situation, if not solving a mystery. The storyline is often presented in absurd ways, such as a guy with an isolated, well-guarded compound deciding he likes John and chatting amiably, but there is a story underneath that is contemporary and character-based, rather than just a stringing together of genre standards and spoofs. The movie does earn a bit of heft by the end.

It's got an enjoyable cast. Shannon carries the movie for the most part, making John an eyeball-drawing presence even when he's in the middle of something silly, while Frank Wood does well as his opposite number, a man of oddly productive frailty compared to Rosow's ineffective toughness. Margaret Colin is interesting as an aging would-be femme fatale, and Liza Weil racks up another enjoyably dry supporting turn. John Ventimiglia pumps up the energy as a cab driver who becomes much chattier when he realizes Rosow is from the same neighborhood. Amy Ryan is somewhat underused as the go-between that John gets a little taken with (though it's not really her fault; we sort of need to see her more, rather than just hear her voice on the phone).

I half-suspect that the reason we don't see her more is that giving her an office would have meant one more shooting location, and the budget looks a little stretched as it is. The settings are a little austere, and it always seems like there should be more people milling around than there are. Writer/director Noah Buschel and cinematographer Ryan Samul so some things with the image that are kind of puzzling; it looks very digital, with a color scheme that seems to be trying to give the impression of black-and-white without actually being grey-scale, only to have the whole thing fall apart because the yellows of the various taxicabs shine out and don't look right.

That tendency toward warring sensibilities doesn't ruin "The Missing Person", but it certainly does keep an otherwise-promising film from being as good as it can be. There's room for comic relief in a movie like this, but half-working parody isn't the way to go.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18237&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/28/09 00:11:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival of Boston 2009 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2009 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/22/10 mr.mike OK cable feature. 3 stars
5/06/10 Corky Odd, atmospheric, and ultimately enigmatic little film. Shannon's great. 4 stars
12/08/09 Jared Kuster This movie wasn't digital. It was super 16. Wow. Critics have really fallen. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  20-Nov-2009
  DVD: 13-Apr-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  20-Nov-2009
  DVD: 13-Apr-2010


Directed by
  Noah Buschel

Written by
  Noah Buschel

Cast
  Michael Shannon
  Amy Ryan
  Frank Wood



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