Billy Hughes is a mute special effects make up artist whose in Moscow working on a film, it's a horror film directed by her sister's boyfriend, Andy. After a particularly trying day of filming, Billy, her sister Karen and Andy are in the car park ready to go home, when Billy realises she's left a prop inside. Andy and Karen offer to wait for her, but she insists they leave and agrees to meet them later for dinner. Once she's inside, she happens to notice the janitor walking away from the building, realising that he must have locked up, she tries to get his attention but he doesn't hear her. Billy hears voices from downstairs and goes to see if they can let her out, what she finds is one of the actors from the film having sex with a woman while another member of the crew is filming it. Embarrassed to interrupt them, she stays hidden but is horrified when the man starts to slap the woman extremely hard across her face. As the woman struggles, he pulls out a large knife and proceeds to stab her repeatedly. Billy tries to move away quietly but knocks over a coat stand, the cameraman hears something but continues to film. Billy manages to get up the stairs but the men are soon in pursuit, she manages to get out of the building just as her sister and Andy arrive and they contact the police. The police arrive and the men manage to convince them that it was all fake, even stabbing Andy with one of Billy's fake knives. The two men are later met by a mysterious man known as The Reaper, he refuses to pay them until there's no witnesses. Meanwhile, a detective called Larsen who has been investigating underground "snuff films" has been alerted to Billy's story.
Russian actress Marina Sudina gives a very effective performance as Billy, she's playing an American but as she never speaks, it's not a problem at all. It's amazing that she managed to impress me as much as she did without speaking, her eyes and facial expressions tell us all we need to know. English actress Fay Ripley who's probably best known for her role as Jenny in Cold Feet made her film debut in Mute Witness, she's pretty good as Karen but she does struggle a little with her American accent. Evan Richards whose performance I liked so much in Brian Yuzna's Society isn't quite as good here, but he's certainly not bad and it's a shame he seems to have quit acting. Russian actors Igor Volkov and Sergei Karlenkov are quite intimidating as the killers, and Oleg Yankovsky is likeable as Detective Larsen. Sir Alec Guinness also makes a very small appearance as The Reaper, this was his last film role and if some sources are to be believed, his few scenes were actually shot nine years before the rest of the film. It's really well directed by Anthony Waller who also wrote and produced the film, he never allows the film to become boring and shows some real flair for suspense. There's something that he does a couple of times in the film where the camera zooms in close to an actor's face and the music kicks in, I found it really quite creepy. The chase sequence shortly after Billy stumbles upon the murder is brilliantly done with her narrowly avoiding being seen, it's very tense and probably the highlight in the film. The music is good, there's a little boob and bush but nothing too gratuitous, and the blood is done well where it's needed.
The fact Billy is mute is one of the strongest aspects of the film, there's another excellent scene where she tries to phone the police but they can't understand the equipment she uses to help her talk on the phone, this is happening as the two men are trying to get into her apartment. I found the underground snuff film quite interesting as well, and I certainly wouldn't have minded the film going a little deeper and revealing a lot more about who these people are. While I really like the film, it's certainly got some parts I don't like. A man is electrocuted in a bath tub and the effects are questionable to say the least, Andy and Karen almost become the film's comedy relief in the last third, and introducing Larsen into the story also took away a lot of what made the first half of the film so good, Billy all alone outsmarting and evading these brutal killers. I firmly believe the first sixty minutes or so of Mute Witness to be creepy, tense and brilliantly filmed, it's such a shame that the final 25 minutes or so almost ruin it. Far too much comedy and the undercover detective and people double crossing each other all became a little convoluted, but other viewers may like the humour and mystery that creeps in. Overall it's still a very good film that i'd definitely recommend to fans of suspenseful thrillers, even if it does start to lose it's way towards the end. I was also quite surprised to find out the film only cost $2,000,000 to make, I assume changing the shooting location from Chicago to Moscow was done so they would get a lot more done for their money.
The dvd has very good picture quality and shows a lot of detail, it does go quite soft now and again but it's not distracting. Sadly there are no extras apart from a couple of trailers. You can watch the film in English or dubbed into German, French, Italian or Spanish. There's also subtitles in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish and Turkish.