Directed by: Daniel Roby (A Breath Away)

Starring: Josh Hartnett (Halloween H20, The Faculty), Antoine Olivier Pilon (Avant qu’on explose), Jim Gaffigan (Away We Go), Stephen McHattie (Come To Daddy) and a small but impressive performance by Cory Lipman that reminded me of Michael Pitt in Funny Games.

The idea of based on a true story ‘Most Wanted’ (Not a remake of the 1997 Keenen Ivory Wayans, Jon Voight film in case you were wondering) is that Victor Malarek (Hartnett) is a veracious reporter who finds out that a young heroin junkie (Antoine Pilon) has been used by the Government to gain credit for a huge drug bust and left for dead in a Thai prison.

What the film does so well is paint a humanistic portrait of both of these men to the point where an seemingly standard story of government fuck ups becomes a tense, kick ass crime film that far exceeded any expectations I could have ever possibly had.

Comb every inch of ‘Most Wanted’ with a fine toothed comb and you won’t come up with a hint this wasn’t a fully backed and budgeted wide release studio film. Had a name like David Fincher or Ben Affleck (Because of the Argo similarities) been in the credits as director this would have been a top tier touted film. Dare I say awards chatter worthy. I haven’t been this surprised by an on the whim watch since ‘The Life of David Gale’ left me shell shocked back in 2003.

From Jim Gaffigan believably playing a bipolar heroin smoking tough guy (think Ray Winstone in The Departed only a bit more wily) to Josh Hartnett’s fiery (kind of kick ass) and unmovable performance, ‘Most Wanted’ might be the surprise film of the year.

Just to keep up with expectations; This is a political thriller with crime genre leanings but we’re not talking ‘Goodfellas’ here. That being said, the noticeably sharp editing, cinematography, score, performances and direction keep the fuse burning until the powder keg explodes. Especially when things could have gone cliche quickly, with the tropes that go along with a reporter on the verge of truth being threatened and an innocent man trapped in an off shores prison. Director Daniel Roby, however is able to provide a Michael Mann like seriousness to his scenes and authentically walks the line between sensationalism and believability. It’s a hell of an easy film to not question but rather fall into as a viewer.

It’s hard for a movie to surprise me these days and while the events that take place in ‘Most Wanted’ aren’t themselves jaw dropping, it’s the top level execution of the story that is. Make sure you keep an eye out for director Daniel Roby.

By Mike Holtz, WWAM Media