‘Mute’: Screaming Into The Noir Where No-One Will Hear You

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So Leo (Alexander Skargard) is a good man. A mute man in a futuristic world where his inability to speak makes him stand out like a beacon, prone to aggressive negotiations with his fists when things get crazy, but a good man nevertheless. This Bladerunner-like existence in the near-future of the city of Berlin, affords humanity all manner of choices to fix their physical anomalies, which means Leo could be talking tomorrow if he chose to and could pay for it. Spoilers live in the future, too!

He refuses to do either of those things, because that would be against his mother’s Amish beliefs, and he loves his mother dearly. So the accident in early life that robbed Leo of that most basic ability to make himself understood, speech, must have been part of Gods overall grand plan, or something, and this is where we find ourselves when the film begins.

It was never satisfactorily explained to me, what the hell Leo is doing working as a mute bartender here in a fancy Berlin strip club, but whatever, that’s where we are. The strip club is run by a gangster type called Maksim (Gilbert Owuor), who excuses various patrons’ handsy treatment of Naadirah, even when it happens right in front of him. Leo’s girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh), she of the blue hair and the several important secrets she hasn’t shared yet, is a free spirit with a dark past who does her best to charm Leo into smiling happily at her loving antics. They genuinely seem to care for each-other, which makes it all the worse when Naadirah goes missing.

One might assume a man raised with Amish values would be a bit more of a pacifist, and that would be a large mistake, at least in Leo’s case. Adherence to his motherly values or not, Leo doesn’t let curses, threats, or even his own bodily harm get in the way of using rather brutal physical force to get the information he needs. Inevitably Leo turns out to be good at drawing, and of course writing his queries when he pauses long enough for that, but really, a photo of Naadirah and a menacingly silent inquiring scowl are plenty enough to at least get started in the right direction.

Meanwhile elsewhere, a pair of former military men turned black market surgeon doctors are sewing one of Maksim’s men back up and reminiscing about their adventures together. Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck (Justin Theroux) have been together a very long time, were even lovers once, but now no longer romantically involved they stay together like life-mates anyways, even to the point of taking care of Cactus Bills’ daughter Josie (Mia-Sophie and Lea-Marie Bastin). Duck has a bit too much of a thing for kids, his side cybernetic surgery business on children and the accommodating brothel attached to the strip club allows him to wallow in some very illegal activities, which even his closest pal Cactus Bill can’t ignore forever. One has a tendency to wonder what the hell these men have to do with the over-arcing storyline of Leo and his missing Naadirah, and while it is explained eventually, the disconnection of plot points seems to poison the story a little.

So we’re watching Leo run around beating people up attempting to find information on Naadirah, and Cactus Bill and Duck do their rather violent thing too, when a bolt of storytelling lightning surprises us from a TV screen. Leo is passing a television blaring the news, and we see a story about one Sam Bell and a case of missing identity, with several men claiming to be Sam Bell standing up in the courtroom to protest.

Why does this mean anything at all? The director of Mute, Duncan Jones, made this amazing Indie film awhile back called Moon, well known by film enthusiasts for the excellent story-line and pacing, and the roster of all of a single main actor played memorably by Sam Rockwell. Having the already-made character Sam Bell show up inside Mute for all of maybe two whole minutes, establishes this new film firmly in Jones’ movie universe as part of the Moon approximate timeline. This actually helps those of us who’ve seen Moon appreciate this new movie that much more, the understanding that a good deal of this world could be our future.

Leo is plowing through known associates of Naadirah’s looking for her – idiotic Stuart (Noel Clarke) and his taunts, Luba (Robert Sheehan) and the other prostitutes, mob underling Nicky Simsek (Jannis Niewohner), even eventually Cactus Bill and Duck themselves. What happened to Naadirah and why are both great tragedies, and while Leo doesn’t waste time ruminating on them before acting, he is darkly sad as he prepares to wreak his final vengeance in his beloved blue-haired-girls name.

Duck may have neatly gotten around the mute Leo problem, but Skarsgard manages to be incredibly expressive in his silent role anyway. The character of Cactus Bill, despite being cast as Ant-Man himself Paul Rudd, is a gum-cracking asshat I just want to punch, so I guess they succeeded at that. The movie itself is strange and disconnected, even from itself, with free-floating plots that wander off into the ether while other nonsense is focused on, but the soundtrack is excellent and for the most part, the film is worth a watch at least once. Make sure you leave the sound on for the Bowie tribute.

Speak of all the evil with Mute on Netflix now!

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