Retro Review: THE VOICES (2014)

Ryan Reynolds is a charming Mister Falcon…even when he plays a serial killer.

Ryan Reynolds was in a weird place in 2014. One could tell the guy had something special when he appeared on Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place (1998). He finally proved his worth to genre films when he got abs and stole the show in Blade: Trinity (2004). This led to appearing in an X-Men film (2009) and then the movie that would catapult him to the truly big leagues.

Except we all know how Green Lantern (2011) turned out.

And then R.I.P.D (2013) came along and made things worse.

It looked like it was maybe over, and Reynolds would be relegated to a slightly more beefcake Jake Johnson-type roles. But, of course, Deadpool (2016) finally ushered Reynolds to his place at the head table, and the guy deserves it. He gives the people what they want.

Yet, Reynolds had to do something before Deadpool came together, so in 2014 he did a little serial killer flick called The Voices. Ben Stiller circled the movie previously, which had a degree of notoriety due to its screenplay making The Black List in 2009.


The Voices carry

The Voices is a whimsical, or at least as whimsical as a serial killer movie can be, look at a shy, lonely man who is schizophrenic. In this case, the disease manifests itself as the man hearing his dog and cat talk to him. The cat is a devil on is shoulder, urging him to kill people. The dog is an angel on his shoulder, trying to steer him in a more positive direction.

Reynolds plays the title character. He’s not listed as writer or producer on The Voices, but one would think he had a fair degree of input in how the movie turned out, as it all seems very Reynolds in nature. It’s quirky, sweet, funny, horrifying and weird all at once.


By day, Reynolds portrays a lowly warehouse worker at a bathtub factory in a small town. Visually, it’s a drab place, except for bright splashes of pink in the company’s logo and the jumpsuits the workers wear. This look is the essence of the movie in a nutshell. It’s a nightmare with bits of charm. It almost feels Terry Gilliamish in that regard.

Reynolds only activity outside of work is his regular visits to his psychiatrist (Jacki Weaver). It is clear he has a dark history, but he is so good-natured and sincere, that his psychiatrist has real hope for him. The only issue she has is that Reynolds is a bit lackadaisical about taking his pills.

“Take your pills,” she urges him. “Please…”


Let Your The Voices Be Heard

As the movie goes on, Reynolds develops an interest in a pair of female office workers. First, the lovely Gemma Arterton, who plays a really out-of-place British woman in a small American town (actually Germany, which is where the movie was filmed), and Anna Kendrick. I’m not sure how Kendrick became a thing, yet her style works well in this type of film.

Suffice it to say, things don’t go quite as Reynolds would wish in his quest to be a well-adjusted member of society. Part of what makes the character work is that he truly wants to do well, and his decisions are often sincere. The problem is that he is dealing with faulty senses. One neat thing about the movie is how it shows Reynolds’ point-of-view cannot be trusted.

At one stage, Reynolds takes his pills, and he wakes up to see his domicile as it is in reality. He is a lot like Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Shutter Island. He would rather live with a fantasy than reality because it’s a lot nicer. Yet, the reality shows just how far he has gone off the beam.

Meanwhile, Reynolds’ dog and cat are his faithful companions on his journey. Both animals are voiced by Reynolds. Originally, other actors were to do the parts, but the director realized it made sense that if the character heard his animals speaking to him, they should be speaking to him in voices he creates.


Everyone Has A The Voices

The Voices was directed by Marjane Satrapi, a French-Iranian graphic novelist. This is certainly an out-of-left-field choice, which is also the essence of The Voices. I have never heard of Satrapi. I have never seen anything by Satrapi, but her work is effective. She guides The Voices along a path that makes total sense from a storytelling perspective. None of it is flashy, but it is full of nice touches, such as the occasional butterflies Reynolds sees hover at the edges of the frame.

The Voices was written by Michael R. Perry. Perry worked mostly in television and amassed a nice collection of credits. Perry wrote for Altered Carbon, Wayward Pines, The Dead Zone, FreakyLinks, Millenium, NYPD Blue, and Eerie, Indiana. His only other movie credit was Paranormal Activity 2. This kind of resume displays talent, though. Perry has a very workmanlike construction to his tale. It is nothing new, but he puts spin in all the right places.

The Voices had a budget of $11 million. Even at a reasonable cost, it still did a bad job of making money. It earned only $2.2 million after a limited theatrical release and video-on-demand. This is understandable. The Voices is too kooky to mass market. Despite the sad return on investment, The Voices did well with critics, and Reynolds was praised for his off-kilter performance.

Reynolds always has a slightly effeminate lilt to his sarcasm. It sounds like it shouldn’t work on paper, yet he makes it work quite well. Sarcasm is absent from his performance in The Voices, yet the effeminate lilt is still there, creating a character that is childish innocence wrapped around a very sick center. Viewers don’t know whether to like him, laugh at him, pity him, or want to kill him with fire. Regardless, they will want to watch and see what he does next.


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