An able cast's valiant endeavour marred by a cliched script and unimaginative direction
"A Mind to Kill", the Welsh police procedural starring the smooth-voiced Philip Madoc as DCI Noel Bain, ran over the course of eight years to much critical acclaim and enviable but not groundbreaking ratings. However, few of its dedicated viewers know that the series was spun-off from this 1991 TV movie, largely due to the fact that it was rarely rerun and not seen on home video until 2010. It was also bafflingly not included on the "Complete First Series" box set and remains unreleased in the USA. But considering that it's not very good maybe it's not such a glaring oversight.
The plot has a lot of promise. A small Welsh seaside town is plagued by a series of gruesome murders and mutilations of teenage girls committed by a person wearing a leather gimp mask. The irascible DI Noel Bain (Philip Madoc) finds himself under pressure from both the press and his neighbours to catch the killer but his mind is most occupied by worry for his teenage daughter Hannah (Ffion Wilkins). Meanwhile, the philandering criminal psychologist and local college warden, Dr Gareth Lewis (Hywel Bennett), makes a deliberate nuisance out of himself in a bid to assist the police in catching the killer so he can, like David Yallop or Vincent Bugliosi, write a book about the experience.
The film's most noticeable and egregious problem is that, despite a potentially disturbing plot, it lacks any kind of atmosphere. Director Peter Edwards, one of those unimaginative hacks who give television a bad name, utilises a very dull point-and-shoot style direction which manages to make even the kill scenes look bland and uninteresting. Not that the script gives him much of a helping hand. Written by novelist Lyn Ebenezer and Sion Eirian, it moves at a snail's pace and is so filled with procedural cliches that it is downright interchangeable with some of the lesser episodes of "A Touch of Frost" or "Vera". Like those two series, "A Mind to Kill" features a charismatic and engaging star, Philip Madoc, but unlike those two he's never given anything interesting to do. Hywel Bennett also struggles valiantly with his dull character but fails to make anything out of it.
The final nail in the coffin is the movie's wildly predictable slasher climax, a blatant rip-off of the "Halloween" finale which feels distinctly out of place in this low-key thriller. Sad really, because a far better and more interesting (if not any more unexpected) ending writes itself and fits far better with the tone and mood of "A Mind to Kill" than the one they went with. However, even if they had used it it would've been too little far too late. "A Mind to Kill" is a dreary trip through a sludge of cop cliches at a pace that would make a snail feel at home. Its excellent cast is completely wasted playing roles that could have easily been filled in by cardboard cutouts as is its picturesque location. What's the point, I wonder, of shooting "A Mind to Kill" in a seaside town when most of it takes place in grey-walled rooms. There is only one shot of the sea in this whole production and it looks so bleak I think I'd rather holiday at Duwamish River.
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