'The Missing Person'

An intriguingly plotted mystery that unfortunately forgets to put the noir in film noir.

Raymond Chandler gets a post-9/11 reworking in “The Missing Person,” an intriguingly plotted mystery that unfortunately forgets to put the noir in film noir. A drab, pale-looking affair without a trace of visual style, this cross-country pursuit yarn fights a losing battle to sustain viewer attention via narrative alone, so much does it flounder for lack of imagistic flair. Watching the newly emerged Michael Shannon handle a lead role provides interest up to a point, but it isn’t enough to give this theatrical traction.

Hired to follow a man on a train trip to Los Angeles, alkie private eye John Rosow (Shannon) pursues the man and his Mexican boy companion to an isolated desert compound, then escorts him back to New York, where Rosow — for good reasons — does not want to go. Scripter-helmer Noah Buschel knows his way around Chandler-esque plotting, colorfully dubious characters and evocative locations, but brings none of it to cinematic life. Attired in coat and tie, the hulking Rosow reps an interesting throwback navigating a dread new world. Jazzy score and refs to “The Night of the Hunter” are evocative.

The Missing Person

Production

A 7th Floor presentation, in association with Apropos Films. (International sales: Visit Films, New York.) Produced by Jesse Scolaro, Allen Bain, Lois Drabkin, Alex Estes. Executive producers, Jason Orans, Amy Ryan. Co-producer, Petra Hoebel. Directed, written by Noah Buschel.

Crew

Camera (color, Super 16/HD), Ryan Samul; editor, Mollie Goldstein; music supervisor, Jim Black; production designer, Aleta Shaffer; costume designer, Eden Miller. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Spectrum), Jan. 16, 2009. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Michael Shannon, Frank Wood, Amy Ryan, Linda Emond, John Ventimiglia, Margaret Colin, Paul Sparks, Yul Vazguez, Paul Adelstein, Kate Arrington, Anthony Esposito, Daniel Franzese, Rodrigo Lopresti, Liza Weil, Merritt Wever, Gary Wilmes, Joe Lovano.

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