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A KILLER WITHIN (2004)


Director: Brad Keller

Writers: Chris Peirson, William Peirson

Cast: C. Thomas Howell, Sean Young, Ben Browder, Dedee Pfeiffer, Giancarlo Esposito, Mark Hanson...

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA): R

Runtime: 110 min (98 min DVD version)

Genres: Thriller/Drama

Reviewed by Larry Jung

The story is about Addison Terrill's desperate search (played by C. Thomas Howell) to find his wife's murderer. The killer left a message scrawled on the bedroom wall above the body: "We're even now." Terrill cannot convince the local police to arrest Sonny Bruton, a criminal who vowed to get even with Terrill. When Terrill was District Attorney, he prosecuted Sonny Bruton. The crime scene has the signature of Sonny: strangulation, tying the wife on the bed, and the taking of a trophy. The only missing element is that the wife was not raped. The police think this is a setup by Terrill who is the real killer. To prove his innocence, he must somehow find Sonny. During his search, Terrill discovers he can trust no one. There are layers of deception he must peel away before the final brutal truth.

The movie opens with a seduction sequence that I found somewhat gratuitous. Then it plods along establishing the character of Terrill's wife Becky (played by Sean Young) and the not-so-happy marriage. The writing and acting are not convincing enough for me to have much sympathy for them. In particular, I am disappointed with Howell's performance as the good guy with the selfish socialite wife.

C. Thomas Howell performance is wooden and unconvincing as the high powered lawyer. I keep seeing Howell as the serial killer George Foyet in the Criminal Minds TV series. Howell mastered the character of Foyet to such an extent that with just a glance the audience gets a glimpse of the demonic chaos in the killer's soul. Howell's performance as Addison Terrill in no way matchs his performance as George Foyet.

Despite the convoluted plot (with lots of red herrings), there is a lack of suspense. The scenes are predictable. The character of the damaged ex-cop Vargas (played by Giancario Esposito) follows the genre stereotype. So do the lowlifes and hookers. Nothing exciting or new is done with the story and characters. Don't get me wrong, a genre murder mystery with the usual suspects and basic plot can be entertaining if well done. I think the movie relies too much on Addison Terrill's final revelation of the truth at the expense of good characterizations and a stronger storyline.

Audiences today, seven years after A KILLER WITHIN was released, will find nothing new or suspenseful they have not seen a dozen times over (and at times done better) on TV on such shows as Criminal Minds, CSI, and Bones.

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