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IFFBoston Review: The Missing Person

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If one is to learn anything from the writing of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett, it’s that detecting is a lonely business.  For John Rosow, the main character in Noah Buschel’s “The Missing Person,” he knows that fact all too well.

Awakened early one morning by a call, Rosow is told that he has been hired to trail a man on the train from Chicago to Los Angeles.  Someone will be at Rosow’s door in 10 minutes with a train ticket and retainer.  Rosow, coming off his umteenth hangover, is less than thrilled, but a job’s a job.  Once on the train, he finds out that the man he’s tailing has a little boy in tow.  In Los Angeles, he’s told by his employer to follow the man and see where he goes.  Two FBI agents let him know that the case is more involved than Rosow believes.  A woman who picks Rosow up at a bar seemingly for a one-night stand, sticks around.  Who is she working for?  Why is she there?

Michael Shannon, best known for his Oscar nominated role in “Revolutionary Road,” plays Rosow.  He’s a road-weary ex-cop with a drinking problem.  (Is there any other type in movies anymore?)  He gets up, he puts on a tie, he tops off his coffee with a pick-me-up and starts his day.  He’s a ghost of his former self, a shell.  Now, he’s just going through the motions.  The seemingly one bright spot in his life is Miss Charley, the assistant to his mysterious employer.  She’s played by Amy Ryan.  Miss Charley is no-nonsense, seemingly uninterested in Rosow’s shattered life and his repeated come-on attempts.  But is she a little bit intrigued?  Is there a spark in her eye as she stares at him, un-amused by Rosow?

Writer/director Noah Buschel knows this world well.  The dialogue is excellent with many exchanges turning into the kind that you want to file away and use at some point later in your life.

“Are you also in the movie business?”
“I’m in the hide and seek business.”
“That’s a kids game.”
“But when you add money, it becomes an adult game.”

The entire palate of the movie is an interesting one, flushed of almost all color, the entire movie takes on a dull, pale hue, presumably an attempt to show how Rosow now looks at life.  Also, the entire movie, no matter what time of day, is void of extras.  Rosow is alone in LA.  It adds an otherworldly, ethereal aura to the entire film.

However, not everything is perfect.  The story, first off, is rife with red herrings, laid over an achingly simple story.  People show up and tell Rosow that things are more complicated than he knows.  No they’re not.  Also, there are characters that are introduced for no reason, who have one scene, and then disappear.  How does Rosow know that there are FBI agents on his trail?  I don’t know.  He simply walks out of his rented apartment and gets into their car and starts talking.

The editing is also mediocre.  It simply is way too flabby with every scene.  People enter the scene.  They say their lines.  They leave the scene.  And we’re onto the next scene.  It is this slack editing that can bore at times and leave the viewer wishing they’d pick up the pace a little.

While there are problems with “The Missing Person,” Shannon’s acting and the tone, while sometimes too much, works well enough for a viewing.  If you’re a fan of noir, there’s enough here for fans to enjoy.  -Sam

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