This starts with the slogan "based on a true story" and I honestly hope that it's very loosely based or else we're all in trouble. The evidence shown on the film that is used to prosecute the suspected murderer is frighteningly circumstantial, it scared me to think that a court would accept such evidence in a trial - the main bit of evidence seems to be the 'method' of the murder, which is figured out while Jensen is stuffing a turkey. So I hope what was in the film is very much toned down from real-life.
The film doesn't want you to doubt for one minute that Robert Russell did kill his wife. I hoped that this would be a mystery but from the very start Darnell is portrayed as a church-going angel while Robert Russell is overplayed horribly by Searcy. Searcy is forced to play Russell as the worst man on earth - from the start he comes across like he's not bothered if his wife is dead, then we find out he's a racist (his wife is black), then we find out he beats her, then we find .......etc. And with all this Searcy is almost taunting the investigators knowing that they won't find the body to prove anything. He may well have been this way - but it makes it so hard to believe that Jensen would be the only person who could suspect him or that Russell would be so dumb to make himself such a suspect.
This takes all the mystery out of the film and only leaves the mystery concerning how they managed to get him convicted with no body. Some of it is clever (as I'm sure it was in real-life) but the way the film makes it look it is a) very dodgy and b) a complete anti-climax for those hoping for some legal fireworks at the end. It's actually quite dull and predictable.
Although the whole thing is poorly scripted and doesn't provide any interest or insight the actors must shoulder some of the blame. Guy plays Darnell like an angel in all her flashback roles - I'm sure she was a lovely person in real life but it's laid on very thick here. Kapture tries to give Jensen an air of dogged persistence and drive and hints at deeper motives but only manages to make her too earnest and appear to have no flaws or weaknesses. Searcy is a study in himself, although to be fair he is only playing it the way the script requires him to play it. From the very start he has an attitude towards the investigators and from there on he just adds on the bad qualities - threatening, scheming, mysterious, defensive - yup he's got them all. A better script would have allowed him to play these characteristics in a more subtle way and allowed us some doubt in our minds.
I'm sure that the real-life events were tragic and produced a more conclusive conclusion (it must have been - all subsequent appeals have been turned down), but this is dull from start to finish - this case was supposedly something of a legal milestone but you wouldn't know that from this. I'm unaware of the real-life case so this movie may have very accurate and detailed, but the way the murderer and the victim were so polarised as good and evil from the first second of the film I wouldn't be surprised if the real Darnell's family paid for this to be made.