Most Wanted Review
Daniel Roby's Most Wanted is inspired by a true story. Josh Hartnett's investigative journalist Victor Malarek is looking into a Canadian and Thai police operation which has, not only, entrapped and charged small time drug addict Daniel Leger (Antoine Olivier Pilon, Mommy) with drug smuggling but sentenced him to 100 years in a Thai prison. Corruption and manipulation abound as the loosely non-linear storytelling reveals how Leger ends up caught in the crossfire of a botched operation and Malarek attempts to pin down who is responsible.
The film takes place in 1989 and well rooted in its time as we see pagers, typewriters and fax machines as the tools used by journalists at the time. With frenetic camera work (reminiscent of the work of Paul Greengrass) adding an urgency and realism to what could be a fairly pedestrian film. Scenes of Malarek's investigations - though underdeveloped - are never boring, with Hartnett lending a likeable narrow-eyed cynicism to his interactions with those he is questioning.
Pilon is believable and sympathetic as the young man massively out of his depth. His arc is stark and dramatic; as he goes from a man trying to get clean, to one gradually gets pulled blindly into a multifaceted conspiracy before ending up naturalised into the Thai prison system. It is frustrating to watch as it's clear that what Leger is pulled into isn't going to end well but he is drawn as naive enough that you go along with it. The non-linear element feels a little under worked. It is unclear at the start that the plot is non-linear at all, until Malarek meets Leger in a prison we haven't seen him sent to yet.
Unfortunately, the lack of development renders the plot forgettable. There is little detail around Malarek's investigation, choosing to mostly focus on people withholding information rather than showing how the character gets what he needs. His home life is attacked but again not really shown in enough detail for you to care. Leger's time in prison is also not as dramatic as we might expect. There are scenes of him manipulating his position and gaining favour with the other prisoners, a lot of which is more interesting than the primary plot but there aren't really enough of them. It feels a little unfocussed; is this a story about Malarek or Leger? given the relatively short runtime both roles definitely feel like they could have been fleshed out further.
The villains are well portrayed, with Stephen McHattie offering a chilling performance as cop Frank Cooper, relentlessly ignoring the signs that he's chasing the wrong man. He enlists new recruit Al Cooper (no relation), played by Cory Lipman, who is reminiscent of a young Michael Shannon in his unwavering dedication to the job. Most Wanted doesn't do anything we haven't seen before on film, and better but the frantic realism and decent performances makes it an engaging watch and a good way to spend a couple of hours.
Most Wanted is released in select cinemas and On Demand July 24th.