HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Murder of a Cat
HTS Overall Score:65
“Murder of a Cat” is a bit of a strange animal. I have a weakness for animals, especially cats, which made the trailer for this one rather attractive to me. The movie is a black comedy about the death of one man’s cat, but Gillian Greene’s amateur direction leaves the ship aimlessly wandering in the dark much of the time. It’s surprisingly sweet and whimsy for a black comedy, which leads me to the belief that this film needed a bit more darkness to it. The tone is set right off the bat with our main character, Clinton (Fran Kanz) living as your typical man child in his mother’s (Blythe Danner) basement with his cat. Clinton EPITOMIZES a self-debasing character, with his childish antics and excuses at running a business (which is basically him trying to patent action figures in his basement), only to have reality hit him in the chest when his best buddy, his cat Mouser, is found dead in the street with a crossbow bolt in him.
Traipsing across town, dragging the amiable Sherriff Hoyle (J.K. Simmons) along for the ride, Clinton soon tracks down the “clues” only to find out that his cat had been moonlighting with another owner. The other owner (Greta) is at first under the scrutiny of our crazed man child, but soon is cleared of all wrongdoing for the heinous crime and becomes a partner in his search. Here is where “Murder of a Cat” goes off the rails a tad. Instead of sticking with the murder mystery in this little parody, the direction veers off course and starts to haunt Al Ford (Greg Kinnear), the owner of a mega mart type store that sells the crossbows that killed Mouser. A giant retail scam investigation ensues and Clinton is forced to decide whether or not he needs to grow up a little bit, or continue in his ways.
Strangely enough, even though the trailer is much better than the actual movie, I kind of liked the quirky little story. Fran Kanz is a fan favorite of mine in “Dollhouse” and he reminds me a little bit of a young Alan Tudyck. He plays the wimpy little Clinton to a T and even though he’s a harmlessly likeable guy, you still want to just punch him in the face for his sheer selfish stupidity. On the flip side of the coin, the movie had some serious writing and directional issues. Greene tried very hard to make the movie a bit of a black comedy, but couldn’t seem to really get mean or black enough to be really be considered one. The part of his cat being shot with a crossbow was brutally dark, and the whimsical nature in which the actual killing/after events was handled is quite dark, but it was as if she couldn’t bear to make Clinton out to be pathetic as he actually is. The ironic thing is that you WANT Clinton to be pathetic. He’s irony incarnate, being the comic foil in his own tale! This is where I wish the movie had been a bit more “mean” spirited and gotten black. The man child only really works if you can debase and humiliate him enough for actual growth to happen, or for the blackness of the humor to be evident enough. Instead I felt that he was sheltered and coddled too much by the supporting characters to really feel as if Clinton was in any danger or forceful situation.
Fran Kanz is given the meat of the story, but as I said, the inability of the writers to actual poke fun at him left his comic mishaps floundering in the water. J.K. Simmons and Greg Kinnear are both award winning actors, but are really just relegated to side characters during the movie. Greg plays a rather schizoid store owner who makes ONE good speech at the end of the movie and Simmons just smiles and plays the kind of old Sherriff during the adventure. Both are more than satisfactory, but nothing really shines from their performances. Nikki Reed is the weak link, as she is supposed to be kind of a love interest, but her ham fisted attempts at being interested in a guy like Clinton come across as unbelievable at best. I really wished they had allowed her to be his partner in crime rather than shoehorn your classic love story into the equation.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44945[/img]The 1.78:1 encode on DVD looks very solid considering that it’s in SD. Coloring is good and the image shows some bright and cheery grading. Clinton's house looks rather 70'ish with old burnished colors from that era, but the rest of the world in his suburban situation carries a more modern look to them. Greens of the grass and trees look well saturated and there is plenty of fine detail. There's some softness to the picture, but nothing egregious. Black levels are satisfactory, although they showed some grey tinging every once in a while. I didn’t notice any major macroblocking or other compression issues, so I have to give the image a nice thumbs up.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44953[/img]The single 5.1 Dolby digital track is VERY front heavy. Much like "A Few Best Men", I felt that the it was more of a 3.1 track with some occasional surround usage thrown in for good measure.. Vocals are crisp and perfectly articulate, while the dynamic range is rather mild. 95% of the movie is the dialog, so that is where the emphasis really lies. The surrounds were nearly completely silent the whole movie, with only a few instances where they were really putting out anything. LFE is mild, but still very satisfactory, and the front sound stage feels impressively expansive. It's a low budget drama, so that's about what I was expecting and it does what its asked very nicely.
“Murder of a Cat” is humorous and painful at the same time. There are a lot of elements to love about the movie, and a lot that really hampered the movie from being as fun as it could have been. The premise was great and I liked the dark humor of the opening scene, and the seriousness of the closing 15 minutes, but the middle of the movie where it treaded water for almost an hour left me feeling conflicted about what I watched. It’s got good video and rather decent audio, so I don’t see any reason not to give this one a rent if you’re interested.
Starring: Fran Kanz, Greg Kinnear, Nikki Reed, J.K. Simmons
Director: Gillian Greene
Written By: Robert Snow, Christian Magalhaes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Runtime: 102 Minutes
DVD Release Date: May 5th, 2015
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