I can’t say that I’ve ever been a diehard fan of the Noir film genre, however I do have a respect for it, and I enjoy the occasional film now and then. I suppose this lack of general interest stems from my love of horror; after you’ve seen horrific atrocities in the act onscreen, it’s often difficult to shift gears and be enthralled by a murder-whodunit.
When I received the press release for A KIND OF MURDER, I initially thought I’d decline. But after scanning the cast list, I figured I needed to give it a look. I enjoy Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel as actors, so I decided to take a chance on the film and see how it was.
As it turns out, I am a bit disappointed with this movie. Despite the fact that it is well made, the film doesn’t offer much in regard to mystery or tension. The characters are never fully developed enough for the viewer to care about them, therefore their actions and the resulting reactions are lacking in flavor. And the attempt at creating an enigmatic whodunit falls flat due to the clear announcement of the killer very early on in the story. In short, there’s really not much going on here.
If you are not familiar with A KIND OF MURDER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:
Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel star in this Hitchcockian noir based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Carol). It’s 1960 in Manhattan and Walter Stackhouse (Wilson) seems to have it all: status, money and a “happy” marriage. But he has become obsessed with Marty Kimmel (Eddie Marsan), a man suspected of killing his wife. This brutal murder unlocks Walter’s darkest fantasies his desire to be free from his own wife, the beautiful but damaged Clara (Biel). When she is found dead in suspicious circumstances the lines blur between innocence and intent. Who, in fact, is the real killer?
I can’t say this is a bad film because, well, it’s not. It is simply bland and tame. The production value appears high, and the sets, costumes, and background details are great. But unfortunately, the story and the characterizations are where this film is lacking.
The plot starts off decently, with Patrick Wilson as a working man who writes crime fiction. After one of his stories is published, he becomes obsessed with a local man who is suspected of killing his wife. Then, his own wife turns up dead, and his world is turned upside down. The problem here is that there’s no real tension. As mentioned, the killer is very obvious from the start, which ratchets down the suspense and turns the movie into a waiting game…waiting for the plot to reach the obvious conclusion.
Also, the characters in A KIND OF MURDER are way too stereotypical for Noir films: the suicidal, unhappy housewife…the free-spirited singer who catches the main character’s eye…even the main character himself, a regular guy who finds himself in a strange situation and then digs a hole difficult to climb out of. If the movie had been 30 minutes longer, and more time was spent on fleshing these folks out, I might have enjoyed it more. But as it is, they are too flat to care about.
A KIND OF MURDER has a lot of potential, but the execution needs to be refined. Despite its flaws, the film does have some entertainment merit, but only if you don’t have high expectations. I had high, high hopes, which is why it didn’t work too well for me. But give this a look on your own, and decide for yourself.