Mute has finally completed its long journey to release, after originally being conceived by Duncan Jones and his writing partner, Mike Johnson, 16-years ago. Since then, Jones has seen success with Moon - which Mute serves as a spiritual successor to, sharing the same universe and timeline - and Source Code. Before it finally became a movie, Mute was adapted as a graphic novel for Dark Horse and almost became into a motion capture cartoon before they finally landed on "the right combination of budget and cast" to get scooped up by Netflix.
Unfortunately, the movie didn't see a great reception upon release, and it currently stands at just 9% on Rotten Tomatoes after 33 reviews, with a 4/10 average score. The main criticisms of the movie are the sci-fi setting is more of a distraction than a supplement to the plot, and the storytelling fails to draw focus to any single theme or plotline, leaving a meandering narrative that doesn't fully serve the potential of the concept(s) presented.
While some of the criticism is deserved, the negative response has overshadowed a number of redeeming qualities, which, while they may not make Mute into a masterpiece, definitely make it worth watching, namely the great sound design, the neon-noir aesthetic, and a standout performance by Paul Rudd as Cactus Bill.
Rudd has been acting for several decades with roles in dozens of movies and numerous TV shows, all seemingly without actually aging a day. His career is already nothing to sniff at, earning a regular spot as a likable comedic leading man, including the coveted role of a Marvel superhero with Ant-Man. But Mute proves he has more than we've seen before, delivering a secondary character that nearly manages to carry a movie on his back, making a compelling case Cactus Bull would have made for a much better main character than Skarsgård's Leo.
Related: Duncan Jones Interview: Mute
Even with Mute's unfocused and cludgy storytelling, Rudd's Cactus Bill shines through as an "a-hole" US soldier gone AWOL from his post in Berlin, as a part of a much larger desertion trend happening in the movie's background. Rough around the edges would be a nice way to describe him, but he has a clear love for his daughter, Josie. He vacillates between has questionable parenting choices, such as regularly leaving her at a brothel when he needs a babysitter and being super strict, such as refusing to give her sugar in candy or soda. His alternatingly loving attitude to his daughter and outright hostile treatment of others is deftly played to both comedic and dramatic effect as the moment calls for, and when the movie is working, it's usually working because of Rudd's performance.
Despite the critical pummeling, Mute is still definitely worth checking out for Rudd's performance alone, with a few bonuses, like Sam Rockwell cameos and the neon noir of a futuristic Berlin to sweetening that pot.
NEXT: Mute’s Ending Explained
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