Anchor Bay // 1987 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 12th, 2006
To commit the perfect murder, you need planning, guts, and luck. Practically nobody has luck.
A very young Kiefer Sutherland (24) stars alongside Beau Bridges (Meeting Daddy) in this mid-'80s dose of coastal noir. Sutherland plays an anonymous young psychopath who ends up on a collision course with love triangle in a sleepy New England beachside hamlet.
The film opens with a scene of Sutherland's character executing an unknown man in the desert of Nevada. Who is he? And why did he kill? Questions that will be answered shortly. For now, the action shifts to the small town where the film takes place. It's a low-key seacoast district, monitored by two bored, low-paid cops, Sam Wayburn and Carl Cunningham (Bridges and Joe Don Baker). The only interesting thing on the horizon is a looming resort complex to be built by construction mogul Jake Winslow (Wayne Rogers, M*A*S*H). Winslow is married to Laura (Camela Kaih), a woman who once had a thing going with Sam. The two still harbor feelings for each-other, but her marriage stands as an impasse.
Until Laura decides to kill her husband. Their marriage in tatters, Laura and Jake fight constantly, and when Jake gets real fired up, violence goes down. For Laura, the last straw was the night Jake raped her. She decides to off the bastard, and confesses her scheme to Sam, who is at first adamant about preventing her from taking such action. But seeing that she's committed to doing it, he agrees to help her. While they cook up the perfect crime, their romance is rekindled.
About that time, a young man named Brian shows up to take the position of deputy. But it's not the real Brian, rather Sutherland's unnamed murderer. He plays simple at first, getting in the good graces of colleagues, yet there is something sinister afoot. Laura and Sam see the hapless new kid as a prime scapegoat to be framed for Jake's killing, but what they don't expect is how their plan will backfire.
While it's a kick to see Sutherland going ape-dirt, The Killing Time failed to deliver a memorable experience. There's a lot of boilerplate betrayal/murder/jilted lover stuff at work, but the film's major gimmick suffers from serious implausibility issues. The flick bets its hand on the notion that some dopey, whacked-out killer can infiltrate a police station and become a deputy no questions asked. Look, I'm perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief, but this is hard to swallow. The guy just moseys in and the only bit of subterfuge he needs to employ is fortuitously stumbling upon an APB about the murder he just committed and throwing away the fax printout. After that, give the man a gun and it's full speed ahead!
But let's move past this glaring deficiency. What surprises does the rest of the film hold for us? The major players are Bridges and Kaih and the focus of the story is how their lame-ass murder frame-up is deep-sixed by faux-Brian. This was easily the coolest part of the film. Neither Sam nor Laura is particularly sympathy-provoking, and, in fact, they're actually pretty boring. They got the whole illicit love thing going and she's married to a jackass and yawn. The scheme they hatch -- screwing over the innocent "Brian" -- is needlessly cruel, especially as it's Sam idea and he had vociferously protested Laura's initial plan: drugging up her husband and stuffing him in a car to suck down some carbon monoxide. How he went from anti-murder to pro-cornhole-the-new-kid-in-town-with-a-possible-mental-disorder is a stretch.
But the come-uppance they are bound to receive for tangling with said psychopath has potential to be savory. Unfortunately, the payoff is weak. We eventually sorta find out why Jack Bauer Jr. is so pissed off and how his self-deputizing was part of a feverish plan for vengeance, and he and Sam do square off in a one-on-one brouhaha on the beach, but the climax is tedious and predictable and Sam and Laura never get jacked like I was hoping for. The worst that their scheming generates is a heated argument between the two. Pbbbttt.
Apart from Kiefer's over-the-top goofiness at the end when he goes completely nutty, I don't see anything else new or worthwhile that would earn this flick a recommendation. Anchor Bay produced a decent-looking presentation, cleaning it up for a 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The original mono mix is intact and unimpressive. Zero extras.
There was this one part in the movie where Laura is driving her car down a windy road and her brakes give out and she careen out of control. It never occurs to her to ease the car up one of the many grassy knolls on the road's shoulders, and she ends up crashing off screen. The next shot has her standing outside of the wreck, looking no worse for wear. It's a really, really dumb sequence and one that could have tanked the movie for me -- if I cared at all in the first place.
The court orders the accused to be renamed The (Movie That's Pretty Much Only Good For) Killing Time.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated R