Lionsgate // 1994 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 7th, 2005
Never trust the one you love.
Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix) "stars" in this newly resuscitated early '90s whodunit, courtesy of Lions Gate. (Actually, she's like the third-billed actor, but as the only bankable face she gets the most visibility on the disc case.) Is it worth your valuable time and dollars? No. Or yes. Depends on if you like the movie, I guess.
Jack Ramsey (Michael Harris) is your typical amoral, loose cannon, private investigator type, who has perfected the art of walking around with a scowl and having sexual intercourse with anything with a spleen. But when one of Jack's conquests ends up strangled, he finds himself in the crosshairs of the authorities. He's the primary suspect, though he insists he is innocent.
What lies ahead for him now is the long, arduous journey of unraveling the mystery over who really killed the girl. Could it be her husband, the shifty, power-hungry politician Martin Lewis (Corbin Bernsen)? Or are there other powers out to frame him? Perhaps his weird partner (Brion James)? Or his cop nemesis Vinnie (Matt McCoy)?
A veritable labyrinth awaits Jack, and he will be forced to utilize all his deductive powers to unearth the answer. His investigation is clouded when he meets the victim's sister, Jane (Moss), and promptly falls head over heels for her.
Man, even a super-sleuth like Encyclopedia Brown would have trouble cracking this case!
Okay kids, I'm going to make this real simple for you. Unless you want to treat yourself to the literary wizardry that has spouted from my fingertips and soak up a few more paragraphs of bullcrap, I'll break The Soft Kill down for you nice and easy-like: People who will dig this movie will do so because they are (a) really into half-baked, poorly acted, narratively-retarded exercises in noir mediocrity or (b) yearning to catch a glimpse of Carrie-Ann Moss topless. I'm going to hazard that Lions Gate is banking on the business from this latter group to make up most of the sales.
I'll get the salacious portion of the review out of the way. A little over an hour in, for about twenty seconds, Carrie-Ann Moss rolls around topless in the dark. There you go. Trinity's boobs. End of story. Read on if you care.
The movie itself is a hapless, boring mess. Michael Harris is devoid of any on-screen charisma, and just schleps around for the better part of the ninety minutes of runtime. It doesn't help that his character is pretty damn unlikable. If he's not seducing a graveside widow into a bout of rough sex (an absolutely superfluous, graphic scene), he's trying way too hard to be a tough guy. As far I was concerned, let this clown be framed.
For a film that wants to be a suspense drama, The Soft Kill lacks, well, the suspense. And the drama, for that matter. It won't take you long to figure out the killer's identity, and when the killer's motivations are revealed you will probably laugh out loud. The revelation is one of the stupidest movie payoffs I've seen.
Plus, the movie is so over-wrought with clichés it almost descends into the realm of self-parody. Jack overdramatically lights his cigarette, then blows smoke in some guy's face. Jack's partner can't quite let go of his wife's death, kneels at her gravestone every day, and refuses to Move On Already.
The film receives the routine, bare bones Lions Gate treatment. A fuzzy, aged full-screen transfer and a shallow 2.0 stereo mix are as unremarkable as the movie itself. There are zero extras.
I've got nothing else to say really.
The accused is exiled to Celebrity Screen-Cap Land, where it will surely get plenty of mileage.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated R