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With: Jim Sturgess, Clémence Poésy, Noel Clarke, Luke Treadaway, Justin Salinger, Fraser Ayres, Ruth Sheen, Timothy Spall, Joseph Mawle, Eddie Marsan
Written by: Philip Ridley
Directed by: Philip Ridley
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 114
Date: 08/31/2009

Heartless (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Marked Man

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed by Philip Ridley (The Reflecting Skin, The Passion of Darkly Noon), Heartless is nothing if not imaginative. It's a visually bizarre updating of the "Faust" legend, with a range of amazing, hilarious, terrifying and romantic images bashing up against one another in an eerily comfortable, natural way. It could almost be likened to Twilight, but for a more adventurous set.

Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess) has spent his life hiding away due to the large, heart-shaped birthmark that covers half of his face, neck and arm. He falls in love with a model, Tia (Cl�mence Po�sy), in his brother's photography studio, though he knows he can never show her his face. One night he sees a gang of thugs starting a fire; one of them appears to be a monster, with razor sharp teeth. As the streets begin to seethe with violence, Jamie meets Papa B (Joseph Mawle), a mysterious, supernatural figure who offers Jamie a fresh start, with a new face. In exchange, Jamie must "create some chaos." Unfortunately, his part of the bargain turns out to be murder. Will he risk losing Tia, or is the price for failure even more terrible?

Sturgess (21, Across the Universe) gives an appealing performance as the withdrawn Jamie, almost constantly overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of love and horror in the world. Ridley fills out the rest of his movie with great character actors, including Ruth Sheen, Timothy Spall, and a terrific Eddie Marsan as the "weapons man." Yet, despite all this wonder and sensation, there's something slightly off-putting and distant about the movie; Ridley can't quite connect with his audience the way more passionate filmmakers like Terry Gilliam and Guillermo Del Toro can. Even so, Heartless is remarkable in many ways and is worth the effort.

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