Faces in the Crowd is one of those movies I passed again and again on the rental shelf until finally I had to get it by default. I simply ran out of other movies. Milla Jovovich stars in this thriller which never seems to pull it all together.
Jovovich is Anna Marchant a teacher who witnesses a serial killer in action. After almost dying she loses her ability to recognize faces. It’s the perfect premise for a thriller, so much so that it’s weird that it hasn’t been used many, many times before.
One of the highlights of the movie is how Anna’s prosopagnosia is handled. Multiple actors play each of the main characters, and we’re often left doubting who is who right along with Anna. It’s a very real and frightening prospect. In fact, when the movie was over, I wished it was a straight forward drama instead of the hackneyed crapfest it winds up being.
The film keeps voices consistent with the use of voice-overs that aren’t quite mixed in as well as I would have liked. Nothing hurts worse than an obvious overdub. It’s especially damaging for this film. More on that in a sec.
The film has a decent start, dutifully introducing everybody, but it tanks as soon as Julian McMahon enters as police detective Sam Kerrest. It’s not that he does a bad job, it’s just that that’s where the film informs us that believability and research were not priorities for the writers. Things go so bad so fast that I had a hard time believing this wasn’t a parody of late ’90s thrillers.
Did the writer name Kerrest by putting consonant sounds in front of arrest? Why is Kerrest so instantly angry? Why didn’t Anna’s friends tell her to tell her boyfriend she had prosopagnosia when he already knew?
At one point Anna gets in trouble for releasing a child to her father when the mother had full custody. We’re supposed to realize that Anna’s condition is horrible. But really we’re told she’s stupid.
This wasn’t Anna’s first day with the class. She was also doubly paranoid about ID. Since schools keep release lists for kids which specifically denote who is allowed to pick up a child, there’s no way she wouldn’t have checked that list before releasing the child. Anyone who has kids in school will probably have serious issues with the lack of security at Anna’s school.
Things get much sillier. There’s a neurotherapist who OB1 Kenobis Anna and helps her identify people without using their faces (yes, there’s a “Use the Force, Anna” equivalency at the end). The movie literally stops for a training sequence. If the therapist was Morgan Freeman and the movie was a two hour drama, it would have probably been awesome.
But this is a thriller. We know from the movie’s slogans and premise that this comes down to her recognizing the real killer at the last minute (and it does). In fact, it’s done in a way that we never really needed a training sequence at all. A rewrite could have left more time for more important character development.
Then there’s the blood goatee.
Then there’s the part where the film gives everything away much earlier than intended. Remember how I said the same voices are used? Well the killer calls and his voice is distinctive. Anyone remotely paying attention to voices at this time will have figured it out by the end of the scene.
Jovovich is the only thing really keeping the film grounded. She manages to bring a performance of quality to a film that derails wildly about 20-30 minutes in.
I give her credit for sticking with it. I don’t know of many that could keep a straight face when McMahon utters “I’m just a face in the crowd.” as he dies. That would be like a dying Glenn Close saying, “I guess I had a fatal attraction,” as she died at the end of Fatal Attraction. “And so begins the Star Wars,” a dying OB1 could utter.