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Friday, April 22, 2016

Tribeca Review: Bad Casting and Lack of Intrigue Plague A KIND OF MURDER



I always thought it was the fact that she stole Justin Timberlake from all of us that made me dislike Jessica Biel so much. And, while I'm definitely still sore about that, I now realize that it's mainly because she's a legitimately ineffective actress. Actually no, she's just bad. Which exacerbates any already flailing film, and derails those with the most potential.

So why do casting directors continue to place her in 1950 and 1960s period dramas? As far as I can tell, the only plus is that she looks good in the costumes. But she adopts no affectation, accent, flair, mannerism, or anything indicative of the era. Her naturally bland approach created an instant disconnect to both her performance as Vera Miles in Hitchcock and again in A KIND OF MURDER, which recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

But I'd be lying if I implied that Biel was the only problem with the new mystery drama. Director Andy Goddard (TV's Daredevil, Downton Abbey), in only his second ever big screen feature, just doesn't develop a level of intrigue or tension that you'd expect from a narrative that is built on double identities, perceptions, classism, and homicide. And neither does first-time screenwriter Susan Boyd, who adapted the script from The Blunderer, a novel written by Patricia Highsmith (also known for Strangers on a Train and The Price of Salt aka Carol). The story about a philandering architect (Patrick Wilson) who finds himself at the center of a murder spree when his hopelessly depressed working wife (Biel) ends up dead, is not nearly as interesting as it ssounds.

As devastatingly handsome as Wilson is, his line delivery and connection to the character is completely uninspired. And while Eddie Marsan (who plays Wilson's unlikely nemesis) is always one of the best things about any project in which he's involved, he can't save a film that is basically dead on arrival on his own. Also, for all you Mad Men fans out there, you might be comforted to hear that Vincent Kartheiser plays the most annoying character here in the film as well. Take from that what you will.

Rating: D (* out of *****)

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