It’s rare that a movie about a serial killer leaves you smiling, but such is the case with The Voices, the wickedly delightful pitch black comedy where Ryan Reynolds stumbles into the life of a murderer after some prodding by his devoted dog Bosco and his evil cat Mr. Whiskers. Ever since it premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the film’s release. Thankfully, The Voices was just as wonderfully weird as I was hoping for and Reynolds’ performance is nothing short of revelatory.
Directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), The Voices follows a nice-guy factory worker Jerry (Reynolds) whose biggest goals in life are making friends at work that he can take to karaoke and keeping his beloved pets fed and happy. The thing about Jerry though is that he hears voices- particularly his dog and his cat- and after a chance encounter with one of his co-workers ends up with Jerry accidentally killing her in the woods, his furry pals encourage him to deal with his misdeeds and give into the killer instinct they say is lying just below his lovable and well-meaning façade. From there, Jerry’s murder spree evolves into a blood-soaked riot, causing him to question his fate, his reality and whether or not he’s even in control over his own life anymore as his those around him begin to suspect Jerry’s murderous habits.
While it may not necessarily be a film that will be universally embraced by genre fans (it’s a concept you’re either on board with or you’re not), The Voices is a triumphant example of independent filmmaking at its very best and is undoubtedly one of the best roles Reynolds’ has tackled to date. When you’re dealing with material like this that also has a very specific comedic tone, you’ve got make sure that you find the right kind of talent that can tackle a role that’s as nuanced as Jerry is and Reynolds has it in spades.
Because Satrapi wants us to view this story from Jerry’s sometimes fractured perspective and sympathize with the film’s protagonist (rather than judge him), that allows The Voices to have some fun with Jerry’s happenstance psychotic tendencies and almost endears the character to viewers more as we learn just what could possibly motivate him to stop taking his medications (the catalyzing event that causes his downward spiral)- Jerry just doesn’t want to be left alone in this world. Jerry’s mental illness is also something that Satrapi keeps front and center throughout The Voices and does an admirable job of asking viewers to not necessarily dismiss Jerry’s maniacal delusions outright or demonize his behaviors either.
Rather, we’re meant to try and understand just where he’s coming from instead of just viewing him as another soulless cinematic killer. Much of that is due to the fact that you can’t help but like Jerry because you know his actions aren’t coming from a place of evil, more like him accidentally falling into a string of bad luck where he ends up with a bit of blood on his hands as a result (akin to another recent favorite of mine, Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil).
In terms of supporting cast, you couldn’t ask for a more sublime ensemble than the one in The Voices. Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) and Jacki Weaver (Stoker) deliver a trio of top-notch performances that all hit the right notes, both comedically and emotionally (particularly Kendrick who you just can’t help but fall madly in love with her after she becomes a beautifully tragic fixture in Jerry’s life), and all perfectly compliment Reynolds’ wry delivery style.
A fiercely entertaining horror rom-com that defies traditional cinematic definitions, The Voices is a triumph in every possible way and proves that Reynolds is a far superior actor than perhaps some of his big-budget studio romps would have us believing over the last few years. A satirical romp that’s as heartfelt as it is gruesome, Satrapi does a brilliant job of blending The Voices’ different tonal aspects together so that we’re much more forgiving of Jerry’s inadvertent slayings which also gives viewers a reason to root for him, despite the tragic events of the film that are caused by his madness.
Also, be sure to stay through the credits on The Voices, as the final sequence is a ton of fun.
Movie Score: 4.5/5