By now, some of the shine has worn off the novelty of Netflix Original movies. For me, this is largely due to the fact that there are so damned many of them, with everything from horror to comedy, both foreign and domestic. It’s far, far too much to keep up with and as a result, a lot of titles slip through my net unless something about them stands out – such as a director I really like (Duncan Jones!) a cast I really like (Paul Rudd! Justin Theroux! ALEXANDER SKARSGARD!), and an intriguing premise (Amish man searches a futuristic dystopia for his missing girlfriend). Thus we have Mute.
Overall, Mute‘s appeal was also its biggest drawback – it had a rawness that a big studio would have no doubt filed and sanded down, which was what I appreciated about it. There were also so many characters and fascinating paths to follow that it was hard to stay focused on the main story. Although its parts seem sci-fi, the sum is actually a story with its roots in film noir. It finds Skarsgard playing Leo, who was silenced as a child in a boating accident and now works as a bartender in a club in Berlin. After his girlfriend disappears, he embarks on a journey through the city’s underworld, crossing paths with the likes of Rudd, Theroux, and even Dominic Monaghan in a bizarre and fun cameo.
I would recommend Mute to fans of cyberpunk and noir, with the proviso that it’s definitely got its own strange, bloody flavor. The world it posits is brutal and cruel, which makes Leo’s kindness and compassion stand out all the more. Skarsgard is eminently watchable doing anything and his Leo is fascinating and communicative. Paul Rudd makes an interesting diversion from his usual Likeable Snarky Guy to an edgy bastard. The real standout performance though is Theroux as Duck. From the very moment of his introduction Duck is difficult to pin down, seeming alternately warm, friendly, and predatory. He and Rudd’s character, Cactus Bill, are in a toxic relationship, and he ends almost every line of dialogue between them with a creepily murmured ‘Babe.’ Bill’s verbal and physical abuse wounds him openly, and Theroux does a great ‘hurt’ face, but after finding out what he’s been up to the very sight of him made my skin crawl.
Mute is a familiar story made more engaging by its characters and their performances; we’ve seen this kind of grotesque dystopia before so seeing it again with a somewhat fresh take involving the Amish was definitely entertaining. I wish there had been more female characters but we can’t have everything.