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MUTE WITNESS

Review by Chastity Campbell

Starring: Oleg Jankowskij, Evan Richards, Fay Ripley, Maria Sudina
Director: Anthony Waller
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 94 Minutes
Release Date: August 26, 2003

Film *

When someone sets out to do a movie, they first have to have a story to tell.   Scripting can either make or break a film, it really is that simple!  I don’t care how big your budget is or what an awesome director you have, the scripting allows the audience to lose themselves within another time and place…and what’s a movie without an audience?

Mute Witness suffers from bad scripting, bad lighting, and in more than one case, bad acting.   However, I will be fair and say that if the actors have nothing to work with. it’s very hard even for big Hollywood names to make something good out of something bad. 

Billy Hughes is a makeup and special effects artist on a movie that is being filmed in Russia.   Billy is able to hear, yet she cannot speak, and adding to the problem is the fact that half the people on set speak very little to no English at all.

Billy accidentally gets locked on the soundstage where the movie is being filmed after the crew heads home for the night.  Unable to signal the guards who are locking the gates due to her inability to yell for help, Billy begins roaming the building looking for another exit.  

She hears noise coming from another sound stage and stumbles upon what at first appears to be a woman participating in a porn film.  However, she soon realizes things are not what they seem as the woman is brutally murdered for the benefit of the camera.  Gives a whole new meaning to the term ACTION, doesn’t it folks!   

It seems that the Russian Mob is in the business of selling snuff films to the highest bidder, and Billy has just become a witness to one of those horrible acts.  

I will give this movie the credit it deserves in terms of pacing.    This film starts off quick and makes its points without hesitation.   The actual story itself had the potential to be interesting, as well as suspenseful.  The script is what pulls it down and keeps it from achieving what it possibly could have been. 

Maria Sudina plays the part of Billy and I will give her tremendous credit for her ability to show a very wide range of emotions without uttering a single word.   She was able to make Billy into a character you could really care for, be scared for, and just in general like.  She was upbeat in the beginning and even after her terrifying ride through life and death scenarios, she’s still able to smile in the end.  It was a hallmark moment if ever I saw one!

This movie contains a cameo by a very well known name in the Star Wars world.  The late Sir Alec Guinness had a small part and only a few lines as the Mob Boss behind the snuff films.   While you can’t really critique someone’s participation in a film if they have but a few lines, you can appreciate the fact that someone of his recognition chose to put his two cents worth in so to speak.  

Director Anthony Waller was also the writer on this project, and while he does have a decent handle on directing, his script writing could have used some work.   Waller has been the writer and/or director on films such as An American Werewolf in Paris, The Little Vampire, and The Guilty.” All “B” movie type films, with lower budgets and high expectations.   I’m not sure what part of his formula isn’t working, but Mute Witness was late for class and only gets a “C” in my book.

I would not be among the throng of people who rush out to video stores the day this one is released to pick it up on DVD.  However, to each his own, and good luck to those who are brave enough to deal with the very bad Russian accents and the less than wonderful script. 

Video **

The video quality on this disc fluctuated back and forth between good and just okay.   I wasn’t overly impressed with the transfer, as there was a good deal of dirt visible throughout.   The dark tones overpowered a lot of the scenes, and caused a lot of the movies detail to be lost.   The transfer had a soft focus feel to it, which also added to the blur in details during the night and evening scenes, which dominated about 90% of the DVD.

Audio **

The Dolby Digital 5.1 on this disc was a decent blend of dialogue and sound effects layered against the music bed.    

There were no audible dips or drops; however, it was hard due to the actors themselves to distinguish what was being said at times. 

Features *

Movie trailers for Anatomy, Darkness Falls and Identity are included, as well as subtitles in English, French, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish. 

Summary: 

Mute Witness is a “B” movie that seems to have been graded on a curve.   Calling this one a “C” movie is what some would consider a gift.  I don’t have it in me to be the voice behind the fiery curtain and outright tell someone to pass a movie opportunity by.   I will say that this is one movie that I will definitely hit the mental mute button on!