By Daniel Barnes
*Opens today at the Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco.
This subdued, almost ephemeral bilingual murder mystery seems designed more for fans of detective fiction than for film noir nuts, but it still possesses a sly potency. Director Dave Boyle unfolds his story (from an original script by Boyle, Joel Clark, and Michael Lerman) slowly and carefully, building the worlds of seemingly unrelated characters in a novel-like fashion, until they collide in ways both obvious and unexpected. A mercurial Japanese crime novelist and widow (Ayako Fujitani, very good) hiding out in San Francisco has sex with a mysterious stranger, but he goes missing the next day, leaving behind only a suitcase and a toilet full of turtles. Outside of The City, a sleepy, small-town sheriff and widower (Pepe Serna) discovers a dead body, and his investigation leads him to the writer, and to a faceless suspect prone to stealing identities (assimilation: the silent killer). Man from Reno never entirely grabbed me, but the acting is solid and the filmmaking is quietly effective, and that ending stays with you.