In 1960s New York, Walter Stackhouse is a successful architect married to the beautiful Clara who leads a seemingly perfect life. But his fascination with an unsolved murder leads him into a spiral of chaos as he is forced to play cat-and-mouse with a clever killer and an overambitious detective, while at the same time lusting after another woman.
A psychological noir thriller set in 1960's New York based on Patricia Highsmith's novel, 'The Blunderer'. Walter Stackhouse is rich, successful and unhappily married to the beautiful but damaged Clara. His desire to be free of her feeds his obsession with Kimmel, a man suspected of brutally murdering his own wife. But when Clara is found dead in suspicious circumstances, Walter's string of lies and his own guilty thoughts seem enough to condemn him. As his life becomes dangerously entwined with Kimmel's, a ruthless cop is increasingly convinced he has found a copycat killer in Walter and aims to nail both murderers.
I must admit I'm still not absolutely sure what happened in the end and I watched it twice. "A Kind of Murder" is a quirky little story; a bit like an episode on the old "Alfred Hitchcock Presents".
Patrick Wilson plays Walter Stackhouse, an architect and amateur writer who is becoming disenchanted with his neurotic wife, Clara (Jessica Biel). He becomes fixated on the case of Marty Kimmel (Eddie Marsan), a man who may have murdered his wife. When Walter's wife turns up dead, an apparent suicide, a detective, Lawrence Corby (Vincent Kartheiser), suspects it may be a copycat killing and pursues both men with the single-mindedness of Peter Falk's Columbo, but with none of his affability. Finally we seem to be left not really knowing if Walter did it or is simply guilty of an overactive imagination?
Patricia Highsmith's novels are tough ones to bring to life on the screen; they never end up as profound as you think they will. The films usually start with a clever idea, but run out of puff by the final curtain - The "Ripley" films and "The Two Faces of January" come to mind.
Good looking Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel play against type creating unexpected characters, and this combined with Eddie Marsan's strange little bookshop owner and Vincent Kartheiser's unpleasant detective give the movie an odd edge; it's a hard one to love.
The film has a subtle score with a seductive lilt by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, the go-to composers for the slightly off kilter ("Enemy" and "The Gift").
Credit also for the early 1960's setting. From the clothes, the cars and the interiors to scenes at bus terminals and train stations, it captures the look of the period and, if you were around at the time, brings back memories. It also gives the film a point of difference, especially as a film such as this has to compete with dozens of high quality, film length dramas and mini series that pour in through TV, cable and satellite.
However, it remains to be seen if "A Kind of Murder" with its fairly contrived scenario and rather annoying ending will stay in the memory.
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