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Film Review: Silent Murders (2023) by Amit Dubey

SIlent Murders Review
An enjoyable if slightly problematic Cambodian crime thriller.

After receiving a horrifying phone call, Mia () is devastated to learn of her brother's passing while living in Cambodia and rushes over to see his remains. Meeting up with his friend Sam (), they soon uncover he was part of a ring of similar incidents around the city in the past few years, and decide to look into it. Initially suspecting a low-life criminal that was hanging around him in the brief bits leading up to his death, the more they dig into the incident, they find that there's more to the story than they expect and must wade through a deeper underworld in the Cambodian criminal hierarchy that they expected.

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Frankly, “Silent Murders” is a decent if overall unremarkable genre effort. What works nicely for the film is writer/director Dubey's storyline which includes some intriguing ideas. The main setup here of Mia looking into the incidents surrounding her brother's death in a foreign city and coming into contact with the forces that killed him is a cliched but workable feature at play. This brings about the multicultural cast rather organically as the differences in how she approaches the everyday life of the city compared to the locals with this fish-out-of-water scenario works in the film's favor. The naive nature of Mia's behavior while working through the ranks of the city's underworld and realizing that she's over her head with how dangerous and vicious they can be is a generally solid setup.

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That is enough for “Silent Murders” to focus on an intriguing murder mystery. The state of her brother's condition and the clues surrounding it point the two in a fine direction investigating these various figures around her brother at the time he was there and coming across several potential targets as to who's responsible. There are some surprising revelations and red herrings that come about in the second half, especially as that is where the building crimes are put together into a pretty fun series of encounters. That all comes to the forefront rather nicely here with the series of reveals that include why he was originally killed and the various interconnecting reasons why the opposing characters conspired to pull it off, including a rather shocking ending revelation that's quite unexpected.

Outside of this, though, “Silent Murders” isn't that entertaining. The main reason for this is the generally off-putting pacing that never generates any real interest in what's going on. The majority of the running time is spent with Mia complaining to Sam about who's the one who sold the drugs to her brother or who was the next one in the underworld gang they need to talk to, to figure out what happened and then meet up with them. This setup isn't all that engaging and usually amounts to a never-ending streaming of similar scenes where the two of them come across all manner of shady or good-hearted citizens caught up in the underworld ring. As a result, you simply end up watching flashbacks to how they meet her brother or the individual's usual day-to-day lifestyle while everyone just sits around listening to the story being told. This setup is fine at first but gets old after a while.

As well, there's the issue of the film being both rushed and feeling unfinished. The brief running time makes it seem like there's material left to tell in this story, as the interconnecting web of foreigners being murdered in Phnom Penh is never explored in any detail, despite it making sense as a logical reason for the incidents. It's the kind of storyline that is rife for exploration which could be something done in a longer feature, but it doesn't have the time to do that as the majority of the running time is spent elsewhere. The investigation that Mia and Sam undertake that slowly draws them into this conspiracy is a single-minded series of interviews that draw out the mystery rather quickly and didn't need to occur as the revelations that play out are pretty easy to spot coming. These features are enough to bring this one down overall.

Having a nice mixture of positives and drawbacks even though the detriments are somewhat more impactful, “Silent Murders” is a decent and watchable crime thriller without going much further than that. Give it a shot if you enjoy these kinds of efforts, aren't turned off by the flaws on display, or are a fan of the creative crew.

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