I discussed my troubled relationship with Anthony Hopkins in my review of The Father a few weeks ago. Earlier this week, of course, he claimed his second Best Actor Academy Award for his memorable performance in that very film — and now there’s another Hopkins’ feature, The Virtuoso (now streaming on various platforms), for us to consider.
How does Hopkins fare this time? To be blunt, not terribly well. Cast as a Vietnam war veteran who hires a professional hitman (Anson Mount) to kill on his behalf, Hopkins adopts an unconvincing American accent that leaves him sounding like a cross between Truman Capote and Rod Steiger. I’d probably have hired Robert Duvall for the job, but his agent isn’t taking my calls.
Any success The Virtuoso achieves will likely come thanks to Hopkins’ name value, but he’s not the reason the film is worth checking out. Directed by Nick Stagliano and penned by James C. Wolf, it’s a beautifully structured, well-mounted and extremely suspenseful thriller. I enjoyed it considerably despite Hopkins’ less-than-stellar performance.
The affectless Mount — whom, I must shamefully admit, I’ve seen but never noticed in a number of other films — is surprisingly effective as the title character, a methodical assassin who never (or almost never) makes a mistake. Hopkins’ Mentor (none of The Virtuoso’s characters have “real” names) has provided him with a two-word clue, “White Rivers,” with which to track down his latest target somewhere in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.
The task proves difficult. Is White Rivers a place or a person? Is the target one of the suspicious characters hanging out at Rosie’s Diner, a roadside burger joint straight out of the 1950s, or is it someone staying at the crummy motel down the road?
Wolf’s leisurely paced but never dull screenplay keeps you guessing, with proceedings kept at a low boil throughout the film’s 100-minute running time. There are no jump cuts, ridiculous gun fights or car chases here — just carefully modulated tension that doesn’t dissipate until the final reel. While it’s unlikely to win any awards, The Virtuoso is a genuinely satisfying crime thriller.
‘Four Good Days’
I gather that Glenn Close did something notable with her buttocks at last Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, but I’m more interested in her late-career renaissance, which continues apace with Four Good Days, a drama opening on Friday, April 30, at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas. I was never a fan of her performances in ’80s thrillers like Fatal Attraction and Jagged Edge, but her latest film provides another impressive showcase for the veteran actress.
Close plays Deb, the mother of 30-something junkie Molly (Mila Kunis, who’s also quite good). Molly has burned her bridges many times over, but when an opportunity to receive a potentially life-changing medical intervention that will end her addiction arises, Deb decides to give her daughter another chance.
First, though, Molly has to stay clean for four days. Is she up to the challenge, or will she manipulate mom yet again and get her hands on some more junk? Deb has no illusions about what her daughter is capable of, and writer-director Rodrigo Garcia gives Close some juicy dialogue with which to express her fears and suspicions. An unnecessarily cloying score undercuts the film’s verisimilitude, but Close and Kunis carry the day.