It seems that this film came down with a mild case of story blindness.
I do enjoy the Resident Evil films that star Milla Jovovich as Alice, an enhanced butt kicking machine thwarting evil in the ruins of a future world. Sure, she’s probably only 120 pounds even on her most bloated of days, but she sells the character well and I completely buy into her as some futuristic warrior avenger. So, I was interested in seeing Jovovich portray a ‘normal’ woman, who puts on her skirt one leg at a time, goes to work everyday and doesn’t have the ability to slice a guy in two with her swords. Faces in the Crowd takes a little known condition called Prosopagnosia, or face blindness, and tries earnestly to make a suspenseful motion picture. Unfortunately for Jovovich this isn’t a particularly memorable role, in a film with a so-so script, mediocre acting, and no real plot twists or surprises. Even in the hazy state between sleep and wakefulness, husband and I could still figure out the ending well before the movie came to its inevitable conclusion.
Anna Marchant (Jovovich) is on her way home from a night out with the girls when she stumbles upon a serial killer dubbed ‘Tearjerk Jack’ murdering a young woman. Anna manages to avoid becoming his next victim but incurs a head injury during her escape that triggers a condition called ‘face blindness’, an impairment in perception that causes Anna to view someone’s face as if she’s never seen them before, including the people closest to her. With the killer still out there and his image jumbled among the many strangers in her head, Anna, with the help of cheeky Detective Kerrest, (Julian McMahon, Fantastic Four), must try and catch Tearjerk Jack before he catches Anna.
Faces in the Crowd isn’t a horrible movie; it’s just predictable and forgettable. The acting is mediocre at best, but in fairness to the actors the script wasn’t all that hot either. All of the characters lack depth and appear to be nothing more than cardboard cutouts mouthing lines of dialogue. This is most evident in Detective Kerrest; his whole performance was ripped right out of the playbook of every chiseled hard nosed television detective that ever existed. You know the type, dedicated officer, no real personal life, looking for a killer, meets comely young female who needs his protection and (insert rest of cliché here.) The very first time we meet Kerrest, the tough as nails cop is hamming it up on screen thrusting his chest out and reciting his lines as if he’d taken ‘chiseled detective’ 101 at his local Learning Annex. His character never felt believable, starting with one of the worst fake beards I can ever remember seeing in a film. McMahon’s whole performance is put on and phony just like that dead carcass goatee that clung to his chin for most of the movie.
Writer/Director Julien Magnat’s (Bloody Mallory) film spent too much time impressing upon us the seriousness of the facial morphing caused by Anna’s disorder, and the story wasn’t as fleshed out as it could’ve been. The changing faces of the people around Anna was overdone and even confusing at times. I didn’t have a chance in some cases to make a connection with a character, which made it difficult to remember what the original actor’s face looked like. For instance, we meet Anna’s love interest Bryce (Michael Shanks, Red Riding Hood) for a few moments at the beginning of the film and when we see him again after Anna’s attack his face is obviously different, but I only knew this from the reaction of Anna. Bryce was a stranger not only to her, but to those of us watching the movie as well, as the film does not do a good job of developing his character much at all. So initially I didn’t know if what I was seeing was the new changey face or his original mug.
I know, what about Milla? After all she was the star of Faces in the Crowd, right? Unfortunately it could’ve been any generic actress in the roll of Anna, Jovovich’s presence did not carry the film in the way a lead actor should. Her character is easily the most forgettable of the film and this is the problem, if the featured player in your movie is milquetoast then your movie is in deep doo doo. Milla, God love her, is pitch perfect in the Resident Evil movies, portraying a character that is unemotional, robotic and speaks in clipped, direct tones that requires little emotional depth. When Jovovich as Anna has to display a variety of emotions, they all appear to be different degrees of the same feelings.
Faces in the Crowd is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround, a nice a/v mix for the low budget thriller. Extras included a behind-the scenes-featurette, as well as a digital copy, just in case you can’t get enough of morphing faces and Milla Jovovich. Yes, she is beautiful, as usual, even if her performance was nothing special. Miss Jovovich is a likeable actress, and regardless of this less than stellar review, I do enjoy her onscreen personas. It is her personable nature, I believe, which makes watching this film a much easier task to undertake.
Faces in the Crowd isn’t a true stinker, it just needed more than one dimensional writing. By the time the credits were rolling, I was hard pressed to find something that had any lasting impact on me. Right now, as I write this, the new Resident Evil: Retribution is in production and I for one am looking forward to seeing Jovovich in her element. That’s not to say that she should never venture out of the science fiction genre, I just hope that she chooses a project with a good script and, more importantly, a director that can bring out a performance where she is more than just the ‘resident’ pretty face. If you do decide to buy a copy of Faces in the crowd, just make sure you pick it up in the five dollar bin at the Wal-Mart.
A reluctant Guilty, sorry Milla.
Faces in the Crowd (DVD)
2011, Millennium Entertainment, 102 minutes, R (2011)
VIDEO: 2.40:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) SUBTITLES: English (SDH), Spanish
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Digital Copy ACCOMPLICES: IMDB