Sometimes one can pinpoint that moment in a movie when you, as a viewer, checked out. “Nope, lost me.”
“Mute,” the new Netflix film from director Duncan Jones (“Moon,” “Source Code,” “Warcraft: The Beginning”) is a random riot of such moments, two hours and six minutes of sci-fi eye candy that makes “Valerian” seem serious, streamlined and coherent.
It’s about this Amish bartender (Alexander Skarsgard) — so take a beat, have a head-slapping laugh at that idea — in FutureGermany who loses his cocktail waitress/hooker girlfriend and must track her down despite being, well, hell — AMISH.
The fact that he’s been mute thanks to a gruesome swimming accident in his childhood isn’t his biggest handicap. He can’t drive, although he steals a car, never has had a phone but uses one to track her down and gets really violent when anybody insults that girlfriend (Seyneb Saleh). Again, he’s AMISH. So no, trying to cope with voice activated phones, computers and library search engines of this future isn’t his only problem.
Wandering around this neon, dew-soaked “Blade Runner” world where screens are everywhere, cameras are everywhere there are screens, hovergadgets deliver everything except for the beatings our AMISH hero metes out to bad guys is the movie’s quest.
Then there are these two amoral, off-the-books AWOL Army surgeons (Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux, no doubt sharing Jennifer Aniston stories between takes) wandering the back alleys, performing medical miracles for the mob or anybody else who can afford their fees, playing The Ugly Americans to German barristas, bartenders, mall security guards and the like. They might as well be in another movie. A worse one.
The nightclubs have the usual lurid lighting and robotic pole dancers we’ve come to expect from The Future. Stumbling into Dominic Monaghan (“Lord of the Rings”) dolled up in geisha drag, playing a perv who has hired two such robots to have sex for his entertainment is another “Well, so much for THIS movie” moment.
Skarsgaard is fascinating, but maybe the most anti-Amish AMISH hero in the history of the Amish. He’s basically playing a private eye working a case without using his voice, and maybe one arm tied behind his back.
I mean, I love a flying “Fifth Element” taxi as much as the next nerd, but Jones — whose films have been spiraling down the “less and less interesting” drain since his breakout in “Moon” — shoves a showy, pointless Sam Rockwell cameo (A cloned soldier of the future?), some of the old futuristic ultra-violence and some old-fashioned “Being bad means being a HAM” Paul Ruddery into the blender.
If this is what the excruciating finished film looks like, what manner of dreck must Mr. Bowie’s son have left on the cutting room floor?
MPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic violence, sexuality, substance abuse, profanity
Credits:Directed by Duncan Jones, script by Duncan Jones and Michael Robert Johnson. A Liberty Films/Netflix release.
Running time: 2:06