The Movie Waffler New Release Review - <i>The Voices</i> | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Voices

A troubled factory worker is compelled to kill by a voice that appears to come from his cat.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Marjane Satrapi

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver

Poor old Ryan Reynolds; he just can't catch a break. Despite being one of the most charismatic American stars of his generation, his career has seen him leap from one misfire to another. After the disaster that was Green Lantern, Reynolds opted out of Hollywood and began appearing in US indies and European productions. His best work to date came in Rodrigo Cortes' claustrophobic Spanish thriller Buried. With the entire movie set inside a coffin, and Reynolds the only actor appearing on screen, it was a movie that managed to live up to its high concept. Reynolds' latest European venture, the German-shot The Voices, has an equally intriguing premise, but sadly fails to execute it in a satisfying manner.
Set in a stereotypical small American town, The Voices sees Reynolds channel his inner Anthony Perkins as Jerry, a packing worker at a ceramics factory. Outgoing and bubbly, Jerry gets on with his co-workers, but he hides a secret; he's seeing a therapist (Weaver) and has stopped taking his meds, leading to hallucinations in which his pet dog and cat speak to him, the latter constantly attacking his self esteem and urging him to commit foul deeds (both animals are voiced by Reynolds himself). When an accident leads to the death of pretty but bitchy co-worker Fiona (Arterton), Jerry keeps her severed head in his fridge and begins a descent into madness.
The Voices opens with a cracking first act that plays out like a scathing satire on office politics, ala In the Company of Men or Office Space, as Jerry endears himself to his female co-workers (he does look like Ryan Reynolds after all) and rubs his male colleagues the wrong way with his boundless enthusiasm. The accident that sets off his homicidal tendencies leads us to believe The Voices will follow a similar path to the under seen horror comedy Tucker & Dale Versus Evil in positing Jerry as a hapless victim of fate, but director Marjane Satrapi and writer Michael Perry try to pull off the trick achieved so well by Psycho, attempting to make us empathise with Jerry while simultaneously fearing him. Reynolds gives it his all, but the script isn't able to pull off this feat and the result is a movie that attempts to combine its antagonist and protagonist into the one character but ends up lacking either. Every time a character you just might become invested in appears they're dismissed instantly, leaving us with Jerry, who isn't sympathetic enough to root for, nor scary enough to fear. Norman Bates he ain't!
For all its glossy colour scheme and musical dream sequences, there's a mean spirited and cruel streak to Satrapi's film. The treatment of mental illness leaves a bad taste in the mouth, asking us to both laugh at and be afraid of the troubled Jerry. And there's a ridiculously offensive scene in a Chinese restaurant that's only short of a joke about missing cats (for some reason we're meant to find the idea of an Asian Elvis impersonator hilarious). Reynolds' quest for redemption will have to move on; there's nothing to see here.