Hossein Amini's The Two Faces of January begins at the Parthenon, where wealthy American tourists Chester MacFarland and his wife Collete are on vacation. They meet Rydal, an American expat who ran away from all responsibility back home, now working as a tour guide. Rydal is a sneaky, scam-artist, but he's unequivocally drawn to the couple, due in large part to Colette's beauty and Chester's sophisticated lifestyle. However, things aren't all they appear to be, with Chester's accumulation of wealth being the result of scamming his investors. When Chester is confronted about his shady dealings by a hired gun, he knocks the man unconscious, imploring Rydal to help him and his wife escape. Things take a more sinister turn when they discover the man was in fact killed, forcing Chester, Collete, and Rydal on the run together, with un-trust, jealousy, and paranoia threatening to destroy them. Hossein Amini's The Two Faces of January is a simple, effective thriller that is a nice throwback to earlier, narrative-fueled filmmaking. There are no action sequences, car chases, or special effects in The Two Faces of January, with the film being a beautiful reminder of the power of complex characters and simple, but elegant narrative devices. The whole film is built around complex characters, Rydal and Chester, each being deceptive men with secrets. They are much more similar to each other than they care to admit, each infatuated by the beauty and vulnerability of Colette. The Two Faces of January is effective simply because of its three-dimensional characters, with much of the film's suspense and tension revolving around the brewing tension between these two men. It's a simple film, that basically uses Collete as a device, exploring male ethos, identity and trust.
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