'The Two Faces of January': The noir movie has an unsettling plot

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Director Hossein Amini understands dread is a dish best served slow.

Courtesy Magnolia Pictures
Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac and Kirsten Dunst in 'The Two Faces of January,' a Magnolia Pictures release.

When it comes to movie adaptations of her books, the late mystery master Patricia Highsmith was singularly fortunate: “Strangers on a Train,” “Purple Noon,” “An American Friend,” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” to name only the most famous. 

The latest success story is “The Two Faces of January,” from her 1964 novel, which opens in Athens and stars Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst as a shady married couple, and Oscar Isaac (so good in “Inside Llewyn Davis”) as an American expatriate con man who bilks tourists. This trio comes together in typically unsettling Highsmithian fashion, and somehow the scorching Grecian sunlight only intensifies the noirishness of it all. Hossein Amini, who wrote the screenplays for “The Wings of the Dove” and “Drive,” makes his directorial debut, and he understands that dread is a dish best served slow. Grade: B+ (Rated PG-13 for some violence, language, and smoking.)

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