HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: A Kind of Murder
HTS Overall Score:78
Patricia Highsmith is mostly known for writing “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, which has pretty much immortalized her in the fiction world. She’s also writer her fair share of thrillers which have made her a moderate success, and “A Kind of Murder” had me visibly intrigued. I love neo noir time period thrillers, and I love Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel (who was basically my crush from high school on) so I was more than willing to give this one a spin. The first couple acts seem to be building up to something quite good, but as with so many other films before it, “A Kind of Murder” just completely falls apart in the third act much to my chagrin. There’s some entertainment value with Patrick Wilson’s naturally entertaining acting, but director Andy Goddard leaves too many questions unanswered and too many loose ends dangling to leave the viewer with anything less than a very dissatisfied feeling at the end of the day.
Walter Stackhouse (Patrick Wilson) is a successful architect and part time novelist who becomes a bit obsessed with the story of murdered woman. This woman was the wife of an antique book store owner named Marty Kimmel (Eddie Marsan) who claims he is innocent of any wrong doing, but for some reason Walter just can’t shake the idea that Marty may have had something to do with it. Walter’s obsession may stem from the fact that his marriage to his wife Clara (Jessica Biel) is a bit rocky. Clara’s mental state is pretty far gone and she regularly dabbles in fits of paranoia and explosive outbursts that her husband is cheating on her (an assertation that is not completely unfounded we find out). When Clara goes through one too many suicide attempts than Walter can handle, he is not surprised to find out that she has actually gone and done it. But the strange thing is that her body was found right next to where Marty Kimmel’s wife’s body was left.
What happens next is a sort of “did he do it/is he innocent?” type of story as Marty and Walter both are being investigated by the Newark police headed up by Detective Laurence Corby (Vincent Kartheiser) who is DEAD sure (pun intended) that the two men both killed their wife. While the audience clearly isn’t sure about Walter and whether he did the deed, Highsmith’s novel sets it up from the beginning that Marty Kimmel has some more vicious skeletons in the closet. While Walter tries to gain perspective form Marty’s “deed” (all the while Marty is crying out that he’s innocent as well), Detective Corby is circling in for the kill and luring the two men into his obsessive trap.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93609[/img]“A Kind of Murder” is based off of Patricia Highsmith’s 1954 novel “The Blunderer”, and while I have not read the book, I can’t imagine it’s as haphazard and weakly done as Susan Boyd’s screenplay. The first act opens up with a sort of deadly duel between Walter and Clara, with us somehow sympathizing with both people. Walter is obviously frustrated at having to deal with Clara’s obsessive mental issues, but we also see that he’s not exactly guiltless in this situation. Especially when we realize that he really IS running off with a mistress much to Clara’s gleeful anger. The second act gets a little more intense after Clara’s death as we wonder whether she really committed suicide or whether Walter decides to be free of his wife’s ensnaring coils. It’s the third act though that completely sends the narrative into a tailspin. The movie has spent a good 55 minutes building up all these little plots and threads that weave all the way through the film, and then in the third act we only close off and complete about 2 of them, leaving a whole slew of questions left unanswered and frustrated viewers.
I love Patrick Wilson, but he’s not really given a whole lot to work with here. He does the snobby elitist attitude that he is known for, but without much direction from director Andy Goddard he’s just a talent flapping in the wind. The REAL disappointment is only having Jessica Biel on screen for a grand total of 9 or 10 actual minutes when the cover makes it seem as if she’s a major player for the movie. Here character is the most life that we have in the film as everyone else is playing it off like a jerky Sam Spade radio drama. Hayley Bennett is bland and fairly innocuous and even Eddie Marson can’t seem to must much energy in his role. It’s not HORRIBLE, but rather just a cathartic and bland feeling acting job from some very talented actors.
Rated R for language and some violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93617[/img]The film may be a bit mediocre, but “A Kind of Murder” enjoys a spectacular looking Blu-ray experience. I couldn’t find out what KIND of digital cameras were used, but IMDB lists the original aspect ratio as 2.35:1, while the Blu-ray is 1.85:1. I never had seen the film before in any other capacity other than the home video release so I can’t tell if it’s cropped, open matte, or if IMDB just listed the wrong aspect ratio. Either way, the digital photography looks amazingly crisp and clear with a light tan and ash look to make the 1960s time period come alive. Visible detail is excellent throughout, with stitching on clothing coming through loud and clear, as well as facial hair and little bits of dirt that get under the skin. Long shots have a LITTLE softness to them, but overall the digital movie looks absolutely amazing in motion. There’s a teensy bit of washed out blacks in a few sequences (usually when Walter is in his den or in the underground area during his final confrontation.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93625[/img]I was not SUPER surprised that “A Kind of Murder” came to Blu-ray with a great looking video encode. It’s not that hard nowadays to make a cheap movie look quite good with modern cameras, but the sound design is WAY better than I was expecting. There is a sense of immersion and intensity that belies the cheap budget and allows for a very invigorating listen. The vocals are always crisp and clean, and the surrounds are used quite actively with the sounds of slamming doors, or the rasping of leather soled feet on pavement in the background, plus quite a bit of use with the period piece score that flows throughout the movie. LFE is intense and adds quite a bit of low end support to gunshots and the rumbling of a bus as it travels from town to town. Overall, I was VERY impressed with the mix and it stands out to me as just as exquisite as the video does.
• The Psychological: Andy Goddard
• The 60's Look
• The Noirish Characters of "A Kind of Murder"
• Theatrical Trailer
• Promo Trailers
Fans of Patricia Highsmith may want to check out her latest work turned film, but overall “A Kind of Murder” is a fairly disappointing affair. There’s some moderate suspense and tension being built up, but too many convoluted twists and turns that are left unanswered by the end of the film. Not to mention a definite lack of Jessica Biel (who is still one the single most beautiful women in Hollywood to this day). The extras are ok, but for a low budget flick the technical aspects of the audio and video are nothing to sneeze at. It’s still mostly a rental though, unless you REALLY are a fan of the actors or Patricia Highsmith.
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel, Hayley Bennett
Directed by: Andy Goddar
Written by: Susan Boyd (Screenplay), Patricia Highsmith (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 21st, 2017
Buy A Kind of Murder On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Mild Rental
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