This cool slice of British noir brings Judge David Johnson back to that fateful night, so many years ago, when he and his friends accidentally ran over the...oh no! He's said too much!
Our review of Academy Collection: The Envelope Please, Volume 1, published March 8th, 2010, is also available.
Sometimes love can be murder.
Ignore that stultifying tagline. This British thriller is the real deal.
Facts of the Case
The film opens with an anniversary party. Greg Brentwood (Michael Kitchen, Foyle's War) and his wife Linda (Phyllis Logan) are celebrating their marriage, despite its private rockiness. Marcy, a caterer (Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda), spots Linda affectionately touching Greg's friend and business partner, Martin, and immediately knows what's up: The two are having an affair.
Later that night, as the caterers leave the house, Marcy realizes she has forgotten her purse and returns to the Brentwood estate. Unfortunately, she happens upon a startling scene: Mr. Brentwood dragging the dead body of Marvin across the living room. Marcy flips out, but eventually calms when Greg convinces her it was an accident. The two men had argued, Greg threw a punch, Marvin hit his head on the coffee table and was down for the count.
Greg has resigned himself to serving out whatever jail time he's got coming, but Marcy, realizing that the guy is not a cold-blooded killer, and sympathizing with the fact his wife had been boinking Marvin without Greg's knowing, decides to help. So the two spend all night putting a plan into place to cover up the accident. But as the police sniff around and Linda grows more suspicious each day, the two conspirators' trust in each other will be tested, as well as their resolve to continue the risky charade.
Is it possible to create the perfect alibi? And maintain it, even as the foundation it is built on becomes shakier and shakier? These are a few of the questions Alibi sets out to explore. This British television drama is a well-done mixture of noir, character study, and dark comedy, and if you're partial to this type of flick you should come away more than satisfied.
Anchoring the proceedings are Kitchen and Okonedo, two actors who put forth considerable performances. Greg Brentwood is a decent, if flawed, guy, who never meant to kill the dirtbag who was shagging his wife. He wants to do the right thing, but his resistance to prison trumps his moral compass, especially after he finds out Marvin's dirty little secrets. When that happens, he immediately sheds regret for the death of his onetime friend. He's a likable guy, and tribute must be paid to Kitchen for injecting the simple, soft-spoken character with charm and humor; indeed, some of the film's funnier lines—and there are some—come from Greg.
Brentwood's partner, Marcy, is the opposite. Once she learns the particulars of Greg's situation, she is motivated to help the guy out. This action, as far-fetched as it may seem, is grounded in character, as we later learn that Marcy had suffered through a dismal marriage herself. Marcy is smart, creative, and basically takes the reins for the duo's plot. She thinks quickly on her feet and doesn't make stupid mistakes, something that Greg, on the other hand, is prone to. This supreme confidence and wit make Marcy likable, and damn sexy to boot. It is the relationship of these two characters, and the burgeoning caring (love?) that they begin to develop for each other, that propels the film.
As you'd expect with a film like this, the circumstances become too overwhelming, and the scenario the two have cobbled together to make Marvin's death look like an accident is challenged over and over until its breaking point. This suspense portion works very well, as it is always entertaining to see our characters scramble and try to band-aid their alibi. Though the police are always looming, the major threat is Greg's wife Linda. Though I don't think the filmmakers intended her to be so unlikable, I despised this woman. Right off the bat we know she's an adulteress, and her relentless pursuit to unravel the mystery surrounding her deceased dirtbag lover made me want even more for Greg and Marcy to outfox her. Regardless of how she may have originally been crafted, Linda was a great villain.
Finally, I just want to say a few things about the humor. There's actually enough dark humor to almost make this film a black comedy. There are a lot of funny lines, and while an argument can be made that their presence is merely designed to relieve tension, I think the humor is part of the entire package. And it works, especially as it helps dilute the satisfying, though unrealistic, ending.
All in all, I dug this film. Koch Vision has brought it stateside in a minimalist package. The video transfer is poor, sporting some very grainy picture quality. The sound mix, a stereo offering, is loud and forceful enough, though. Sadly, no extras of note.
Alibi is worth a look. Strong performances, a tightly wound plot, memorable characters, and a trace of black humor make it a solid entry into the old cover-up-the-dead-body conspiracy genre.
The judge can't think of anything witty to say. Court adjourned.
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