Lionsgate // 2005 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 24th, 2006
Twenty years. Forty-eight victims. No remorse.
From Ulli Lommel, the director of Boogeyman, comes this partially fictionalized dramatization of the killing spree of one of the most infamous serial murderers in America's history.
In 2001, Gary Ridgway was arrested and convicted as the long sought-after "Green River Killer," a quiet guy suspected of murdering at least 48 prostitutes and leaving several of the bodies at the banks of the Green River, in the Washington area. His reign of terror occurred in the early '80s. The serial killer with the largest number of deaths to his name, Ridgway pled guilty to 48 counts of murder, in exchange for his life. Today he is serving the first of his 48 consecutive life sentences.
This film tracks the period when Ridgway started his spree, up to the moment he was captured. George Kiseleff plays Ridgway, a seemingly regular guy, married with a son, who works the night shift at a packing plant. Unbeknownst to his wife (though perhaps suspected by his weirdo son), Ridgway is addicted to prostitutes. While his wife works during the day, Ridgway is cruising the bars and the streets to find his next lady friend.
Unfortunately for the girls, they tend not to survive a tryst with Gary Ridgway; when he's done, he strangles them and ditches the bodies. Once the first corpse is found near the Green River, the police begin their investigation, with Ridgway eventually coming up as a prime suspect. But it isn't until the advent of DNA evidence that fate finally catches up with the lousy bastard, and he's sent to the slammer forever.
The Green River Killer doesn't really feel like a full-on film to me. It's more of a stylized dramatization, almost a documentary. This is a direct result of Lommel's directorial choices, and the different stylistic components he used to craft the movie.
The first choice he makes is to shoot the whole thing digitally, and while the picture quality benefits from this decision, The Green River Killer retains a lower-budgeted, documentary look because of it. That may not bother many people, but for my nickel it took away the cinematic feel and rendered it more "made-for-TV."
Second, the Ridgway character narrates throughout the film, taking the viewer through his different states of mind, what his family life was like, and offering even a half-assed reason or two why he was such a murderous nut-bag. Informative, sure, but again, more educational than engaging.
And finally, in conjunction with the character narration, we also get some voice-over by the actual Ridgway, as well as cuts of his interrogation, mixed into the film. This tactic was the most effective at springing me out of the role as filmgoer and landing me into the "documentary watcher" chair. For one, you've got two Ridgways talking, and you know one of them is the real one, so it's hard to invest yourself into Kiseleff's performance. While that footage with Ridgway is interesting, and probably represents the most disturbing stuff on screen, having those authentic scenes (complete with the time and date in the lower corner) sprinkled throughout is jarring, and negatively impacts the experience. Add to that the juxtaposition these real interview sessions with obviously fictionalized aspects of the film, most notably another killer named "Boris," Ridgway's mentor in the movie and a character Lommel invented ex nihilo, the flick begins to unravel.
So for my money, these decisions by Lommel proved to be counterproductive. I think if you go into this with the right expectations -- that you're going to see something more akin to what you'd find on the Discovery Channel -- you might enjoy it. Then again, the obviously drummed-up plotlines don't serve this scenario well either.
Last thing: there's a surprising amount of sex in this film, but it is hardly the erotic kind. Though the women are attractive, they all tussle with Ridgway, who we know is going to strangle them to death soon after. If that still turns you on...please don't email or attempt to contact me. Ever.
The only extra of note is a commentary by Lommel and some guy named Jeff Frentzen who was involved somehow with the production. The highlight of the track was Lommel bizarrely talking about how he's personally responsible for universal ghetto violence.
The Green River Killer just doesn't feel like a movie to me. Pass.
Forty-eight consecutive life sentences is a tad harsh. How about forty-six?
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director's Commentary
* Crime Library: Gary Leon Ridgway
* Wikipedia: Gary Ridgway