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With: Josh Hartnett, Stephen McHattie, Antoine Olivier Pilon, Amanda Crew, Jim Gaffigan, J.C. MacKenzie, Don McKellar
Written by: Daniel Roby
Directed by: Daniel Roby
MPAA Rating: R for drug content, language throughout and some violence
Running Time: 125
Date: 07/24/2020

Most Wanted (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Drug Lured

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Messy and overlong, this based-on-a-true-story crime drama nonetheless has an innovative structure and crisp, colorful performances that engross, even as we feel enraged by the real-life cruelty and corruption.

In Most Wanted, Canadian journalist Victor Malarek (Josh Hartnett) wishes to dig deeper into a story about a Canadian citizen that has been arrested for dealing heroin, and is being held in Bangkok, Thailand. Meanwhile, Daniel L├ęger (Antoine Olivier Pilon), a heroin addict who is trying to go straight, finishes a logging job and promptly has all his money stolen. But Picker (Jim Gaffigan), who runs a fishing boat, hires him.

When tempted by a package of heroin, Daniel finds himself in debt to Picker, and becomes involved in a scheme to bring back a shipment of drugs from Thailand. The scheme is engineered by a team of crooked cops, led by Frank Cooper (Stephen McHattie). Then, as Victor gets closer to the truth, he finds his wife Anna (Amanda Crew) and their newborn daughter threatened by unknown forces.

With Most Wanted, writer and director Daniel Roby has figured out a creative way to tell the story from various ends, all meeting in the middle with a satisfying snap. This way, a variety of characters end up becoming more human, driving the story rather than being driven by it. Pilon is terrific, at first coming across as a punk, but eventually developing fears and hopes that make him appealing.

Gaffigan adds dark humor to his nasty, deceitful character, and McHattie is as grizzled as they come, broken by the fact that he has been overlooked for a much-needed promotion. Hartnett swaggers across the screen with his long, flowing hair, but he, too, becomes likable thanks to his connection to his wife. Unfortunately, Crew has little to do other than wait for her husband and worry, and the only other major female character, played by Rose-Marie Perreault, disappears before she can leave much of a mark.

Roby relies on irritating, wobbly hand-held camerawork for much of the movie, and it does occasionally betray a bit of self-importance and bloat, but overall Most Wanted works thanks to its focus and its life energy.

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