MUTE [Review]: Sex Robots and Sea Horses.
I wrote an article ages ago, sometime after Moon in 2009 and Source Code in 2011 but long before the 2016 release of Warcraft, which teased writer and director Duncan Jones’ vision for Mute. At the time, all we had was a handful of concept art and some story ideas. Jones had envisioned making Mute his first film, but it was deemed too ambitious and expensive for a first time director. So Jones made Moon his debut feature and 19-years later, along with nearly a decade of work from conception to final product, Mute is finally being released to most homes in America thanks to Netflix.
This movie is fucking weird and that’s coming from someone who adores Moon and wishes Duncan Jones could capture lightning in a bottle for a second time. Blade Runner is Jones’ favorite film, so that is naturally what you’ll be thinking of throughout Mute. Taking place in a futuristic Berlin, Mute is visually a distant cousin of Blade Runner with similar vibrant fluorescent lighting, questionable fashion choices that Gary Oldman’s Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg character from The Fifth Element would raise an eyebrow to, and flying cars. However, while the Berlin streets in Mute can get crowded from time to time, Berlin feels much more open than the congested alleyways of dystopian Los Angeles in Blade Runner. Mute attempts to introduce its own futuristic concepts as well like the take out delivery service Fly Meal, which seems to either be delivered by a drone, a UFO, or a UFO shaped drone.
Diving into the weirdness of the film, we visit a nightclub called Foreign Dreams on more than one occasion and there are robot strippers there complete with cybernetic butt cheeks that would make Cyborg from Justice League blush and clunky metal tits that will give you nightmares. Dominic Monaghan has a brief appearance in the film dressed as a geisha and is interrupted mid-coitus with two sex robots, one male and one female obviously, that can fully replicate the sensual act and the male-bot has this giant-sperm-whale-sized spiked purple dildo-cock shoehorned to its pelvis. Justin Theroux portrays a character named Duck who is basically the buddy cop sidekick to Paul Rudd’s Cactus Bill. The two are US Army surgeons who now find themselves doing patch-up jobs and torture surgeries for the mob for good money; but while Cactus Bill is trying to get his papers to get himself and his daughter back to the US, Duck is allowing his full-on pervy — and all around creepy — pedophilia obsession to take the wheel nailing barely legal babysitters, taking video of his kid patients while they undress, and attempting to hide his bowling alley boner when a schoolgirl in a skirt bends over to reveal a slight glimpse of her panties. Robert Sheehan portrays this asshole male prostitute named Luba who runs around wearing this bizarre clear forehead protector to compliment his pointy white hair; he’s shown without the forehead protector in one scene and suddenly has a dark uni-brow for some reason. He’s also able to somehow dress up as a woman, appearing as natural and curvy as an actual woman (he suddenly has tits) other than his face, to parade around what is likely soggy meatloaf flavored genitalia dangling in a musty pair of pantyhose.
The story starts off simple and then explodes into absolute explosive trainwreck fuckery over the course of two hours. A boy is in some sort of accident as a kid that wounds his vocal chords and almost kills him. Doctors suggest surgery, but his religious mother decides that God will heal him from the comfort of their home. As an adult, Leo (Alexander Skarsgard) works as a bartender and his whole life seems to revolve around his girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh). He has become accustomed to not being able to speak or make any sort of vocalization whatsoever. Leo wakes up one day to find Naddirah gone and he spends the rest of the film digging through the nastiest parts of futuristic Berlin just to figure out what happened to her.
The tie-in to Moon Mute has as this random throwaway gag is quite possibly its biggest triumph. It’s so brief, but highly entertaining. Mute takes place within the same timeline as Moon and this is supposed to be an epilogue for the Sam Bell character. Without blowing it out of proportion, Rudd is kind of mindblowing here; but that may be thanks to Cactus Bill being written like somebody wrote the character while having a gun pointed at their head and playing Russian roulette in an effort to make Cactus Bill as batshit crazy as possible. Cactus Bill starts off as comedic relief. It’s Paul Rudd not giving a shit, being a wise-ass, smoking cigars, drinking martinis, and playing with his zippo lighter in the shadows while sporting a handlebar mustache (that he actually grew for the film) and this glorious heavy parka with the most epic goose down hood you’ve ever seen. Cactus Bill seems like a desperate guy trying to get his daughter back home for the first half of the film. Then suddenly in the second half Cactus Bill becomes more violent beating the shit out of Duck just for the hell of it and assaults a mall cop over a handful of peanuts. Cactus Bill takes a flying fucking leap into shit-hits-the-fan-and-splatters-on-shocked-faces territory. His evil and sadistic turn is completely out of nowhere.
You reach the end of Mute and you have no earthly idea what the point of it was. Skarsgard has this innocence to him in his performance that he deserves accolades for getting across without the use of his voice and the film seems to be trying to go for a noir kind of setting like something along the lines of Rian Johnshon’s Brick, Memento, or even The Lovely Bones; but everything gets so caught up in the mystery aspect of the story, that all logic swirls together with nonsense resulting in this muddy sci-fi diarrhea with head scratching character turns and questionable reveals that aren’t fully explained. The film is watchable and isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s more of a what the fuck kind of viewing like Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales. So if nonsensical science fiction is your thing, then Mute is definitely something you should hit up on Netflix. 3/5 “I Think This May Be An Underground German Scheisse Video” Bibles.