Film Critic

Chuck Koplinski is The News-Gazette's film critic. His email is chuckkoplinski@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter (@ckoplinski).

SR Most Wanted

Antoine Olivier Pilon, center, stars in ‘Most Wanted’ (2020).

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I think it’s safe to say that none of us know how strong we truly are until we’re faced with the most dire of situations. That was certainly the case with Alain Olivier, a Canadian with a troubled past who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, with tragic results.

Ensnared in a fraudulent sting operation concocted by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, he ended up serving eight years in a Thai prison, freed only by the tenacious investigation of a dedicated reporter who just happened to stumble onto his case.

Daniel Roby’s impressive “Most Wanted” recounts Olivier’s experiences and the complex circumstances that led to his unjust incarceration, a story with so many moving parts and odd circumstances that you’d be tempted to discard it as impossible if it weren’t true. It’s compelling not simply because of its unique circumstances but also because of its characters, a collection of morally questionable, duplicitous men who put themselves first, no matter which side of the law they’re on.

Daniel Leger (Antoine Olivier Pilon) is a young man who’s squandered his share of opportunities. A recovering drug addict, he’s been cut off by his parents and survives by working laboring jobs whenever they pop up. Emotionally vulnerable, without a home and constantly battling his inner demons, he gravitates toward get-rich-quick schemes and questionable characters. He crosses paths with Picker (Jim Gaffigan), a predator who takes him in, gets him hooked on cocaine and convinces the young man he’s in debt to him.

He manipulates Leger into believing that Picker is establishing a drug network with a pipeline from Thailand to Canada and he wants him to be the courier. Little does he know that Picker is setting him up to be arrested by officers from the CSIS who are desperate to make a big splash, wanting to make an arrest that will garner favorable attention. They’re led to believe that Leger is the big fish they are looking for.

As this is playing out, we become acquainted with Victor Malarek (Josh Hartnett), an investigative reporter who seems to specialize in alienating everyone around him. Hanging by a thread professionally, he convinces his editor to finance a trip to Thailand, where he hopes to interview Leger. With a little digging, the writer figures out his subject is not the major player everyone’s been led to believe, and there are certain parts of the official CSIS story that don’t add up.

Roby does a masterful job keeping the three storylines clear and easy to follow. This is even more impressive considering the filmmaker tinkers with the timeline throughout, sometimes flash-forwarding to events that have yet to occur. Rather than alienating the viewer, this approach sucks you in, as the bits that hint at what will happen just increase the curiosity factor.

That none of the characters is particularly appealing proves fascinating as well. In some ways, Malarek is no better than the men he investigates, as he manipulates and uses others for his own ends with little regard to the consequences.

Redemption is elusive for them all, yet it does occur through unusual circumstances, making it all the more powerful. In the end, the most powerful message in “Most Wanted” is one of hope, the notion that a chance to turn your life around is available to any who have been discarded.

For DVR alerts, film recommendations and movie news, follow Koplinski on Twitter @ckoplinski. His email is chuckkoplinski@gmail.com.

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