Sundance 2014: Ryan Reynolds is a Cheerful Serial Killer 'The Voices'
by Alex Billington
January 25, 2014
This film can be best described as a (literally) colorful serial killer film starring Ryan Reynolds as a guy who talks with his pets and kills people. Yep, it's already WTF based on that alone, but the film itself - whoa. Marjane Satrapi's The Voices is a film that I'm intrigued even exists with the story it has along with such an impressive cast to boot. I'm honestly not sure if I was amused and entertained or completely horrified watching it. During my screening at Sundance, heaps of moviegoers walked out the moment it started to get bloody. And damn does this film get bloody. But it's also funky and deviously enjoyable, if that's your thing.
The Voices, with a script by Michael R. Perry, is the third film by Iranian director Marjane Satrapi, who broke out with her debut animated film Persepolis and followed that up with the underrated Chicken with Plums. This time she brings her unique style to another offbeat comedy, about a serial killer named Jerry, played by Ryan Reynolds, stretching his acting legs in a role that is quite challenging. It's not a spoiler that he's a serial killer (even the opening credits are bloody), but it is a subtle reveal with his character. At the start we see he's just a happy-go-lucky always-smiling worker at a bathtub manufacturing plant where they wear pink jumpsuits and use pink tape. But then things take a turn when he meets the women in accounting.
What impresses me the most about the film is that it's devious in a very smart way. It throws audiences for a loop and continues to do so until Satrapi begins to reveal more about the character: his history, and what lead us to the story we are now watching unfold in the bloodiest of ways. Only then does it start to make sense and only then did I start to realize there's actually rather interesting commentary on mental health hidden beneath its surface. What we're supposed to make of that, especially with all the killing, is up to the audience but I won't deny that this an impressively original creation. Jerry talks with his pet dog and cat, and their voices are awkward and overly brash at first, but as we learn more everything starts to make sense.
It's only then, once everything begins to fall into place, that it become easier to kick back and laugh at this absurd serial killer comedy. Yes it does sound weird to laugh at a guy killing people, but that's exactly how Satrapi plays it. Severed heads in the refrigerator soon begin to talk back to him too, and he really starts to go crazy (or maybe crazier) while we learn more about what's going on and why he feels this way. I can't even compare it to a movie like American Psycho because this is just something else entirely, something so odd and so out there; I believe it will gain a strong cult following but will struggle to find a wider audience.
More than anything, I greatly admire Marjane Satrapi's filmmaking, and her desire to do exactly what she wants and make the kind of bold decisions that perhaps few other filmmakers are making. In this film that is evidence in her set design and costume choices, her storytelling gimmicks, and her commitment to the absurd plot, knowing that it might freak out and alienate a majority of viewers. This is probably the exact reason Ryan Reynolds took the role, and delivers one of his most unique performances so far, along with the rest of the cast: Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver and Stephanie Vogt. It will amuse some, horrify others, but there's certainly nothing else like The Voices out there. Weird and wacky, but fun.
Alex's Sundance 2014 Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing