I was bored the other day and in the mood for a lightweight murder mystery sort of thing, so I plopped down on the couch and started flipping through Netflix’s “Watch Now” options on my Roku box until I came across this one. Though it sounded like a completely standard “cops hunt elusive serial killer” story, I was intrigued by the cast, which included both Tom Noonan AND Bill Moseley. Since that’s a combination that seems much more suited to a scary horror movie than a murder mystery (those are two creepy-ass mo-fos, if you ask me), it kind of gave me hope this film might be spookier and more entertaining than it sounded.
Right away I had a major beef with the picture, though, and that beef was the casting of Eliza Dushku as a homicide detective. Setting aside the fact she’s a terrible actress, the more pressing issue for me was this: Since when do cops get promoted to homicide detectives in their mid-20’s? But you know what, I said to myself, whatever. Maybe she was the Doogie Howser of her department, what do I know? Let’s just suspend that disbelief thing, go along for the ride, and hope that Noonan and Mosely come along soon to save us from the silly.
Dushku stars as Detective Megan Paige and is, as the story opens, the chief investigator in the case of a murdered little girl (incidentally, this movie is loosely based on an actual series of crimes in Rochester, NY in the 1970’s). The girl’s first and last names both started with the letter “C” and so did the town where her body was found, and Megan soon becomes convinced the three Cs are no mere coincidence. She begins spending hours and hours in the attic of her house, going over every crime scene photo and file repeatedly until, eventually, she just cracks. It begins with hallucinations of the ghost of the dead girl and progresses from there very quickly to an attempt at suicide, all while her boyfriend, a fellow detective named Kenneth (Elwes), watches on helplessly.
Cut to two years later and Megan is back on the force after spending many months in treatment for what was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. To avoid a lawsuit, the force agreed to take her back on, though only in limited capacity as a records clerk. But when another little girl’s murdered body is found — another girl with double initials found dead in a town that starts with the same letter — Kenneth, now her ex-boyfriend and also her boss, reluctantly lets Megan consult on the case, recognizing that she has insights into the original murder none of the other cops share.
(Annnd there’s where I rolled my eyes again, by the way. Because, really? You’re going to let the woman on thorazine for schizophrenia interview witnesses and handle evidence? Good luck in court, fellas!)
BUT ANYWAY,this flick did keep me relatively entertained and it was almost exactly the kind of movie I was in the mood for. And really, if they’d cast a better actress in the lead role, it could have been a fairly intriguing examination of the conundrum that comes when the very thing that makes a person excel at their job (the intuition, insights, and focus Megan gains as part of her mental illness) is the same thing that ultimately is their undoing. Dushku, though, overacts so ridiculously that she made the scenes that would’ve been pivotal to this theme just look silly. Kind of too bad, because the supporting actors all did a fairly decent job, including Noonan and Moseley, as well as Timothy Hutton as Megan’s support group buddy and Carl Lumbly as her doctor.
It’s not a great movie, obviously. It’s not even really a good one. Nevertheless it’s decent, and perhaps most importantly, also FREE. You could do a lot worse. Trust me — I do a lot worse on a regular basis.
Cast: Eliza Dushku, Cary Elwes, Tom Noonan, Bill Moseley, Carl Lumbly, Michael Ironside