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‘Most Wanted’ (review)

Produced by Daniel Roby,
André Rouleau,
Valérie d’Auteuil
Written & Directed by Daniel Roby
Starring Antoine Olivier Pilon, Josh Hartnett,
Stephen McHattie, Don McKellar, Jim Gaffigan,
J.C. Mackenzie, Amanda Crew

 

Compelling journalistic thriller starts Josh Hartnett as real-life reporter Vincent Malarek who, while working at a Toronto newspaper, investigates the shady circumstances behind the arrest of a Canadian citizen, imprisoned in a Thai jail.

The citizen in question is Daniel Leger (a very good Antoine Olivier Pilon) a small-time junkie, so broke he has to jump on his motorcycle to make a getaway to avoid paying the ten bucks for gas.

Basically disowned by his parents and screwed over by a friend, Leger winds up working for an unhinged yet, at times, seemingly sympathetic con men, played with genuine menace by Jim Gaffigan.

Through a macabrely funny combination of Gaffigan’s slimy machinations and the bumbling of the Canadian police, Leger is set up as a drug kingpin to be taken down after a huge heroin sale in Thailand, thus catapulting frustrated cop Frank Cooper to the big leagues.

Poor Leger, while hardly an innocent, is dragged through this nightmare like a babe in the woods; he keeps trying to do the right thing – or at least get out of the situation intact – but keeps failing, due to misplaced trust and intimidation.

This buildup to Leger’s maddening incarceration is intercut with Malarek’s persistence in getting to the bottom of the fishy documented report, going for the big scoop but also because he genuinely feels awful for Leger and is incensed at the injustice.

This – as is often the case with theses types of films – takes a toll on his wife and newborn daughter, and Most Wanted does not shy away from the old trope of the family being threatened and the wife accusing her love of being more concerned about getting the story than about his own family.

There’s also the old trope of the crusading journalist battling with his poo-pooing editor, ultimately convincing the editor to give him an unrealistic deadline.

These tropes, while handled well by cast and crew, may keep the film from truly shining, but for me they didn’t detract much from my enjoyment of the film.

There’s never a dull moment here, with a very effective structure, spot-on editing, nicely modulated score and ace performances all-around, including what may be Hartnett’s career-best.

Canadian production also offers always-welcome, north of the border stalwarts Stephen McHattie (so good as Cooper) and Don McKellar, as Malarek’s kind-hearted co-worker and friend.

While Most Wanted may not be in the same league as All The President’s Men and The Insider, it’s certainly a solid, satisfying addition to the crusading journalist subgenre.

 

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