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A Kind of Murder (2016)

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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.

Director:

Andy Goddard

Writers:

Susan Boyd (screenplay by), Patricia Highsmith (based on the novel "The Blunderer" by)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Patrick Wilson ... Walter Stackhouse
Jessica Biel ... Clara Stackhouse
Haley Bennett ... Ellie Briess
Eddie Marsan ... Marty Kimmel
Vincent Kartheiser ... Det. Laurence Corby
Jon Osbeck ... Jon Carr
Radek Lord ... Tony Ricco
Christine Dye ... Claudia
Kelly Mengelkoch Kelly Mengelkoch ... Helen Kimmel
Corrie Danieley ... Betty Ireton
Ian Short Ian Short ... Bill Ireton
Ken Strunk ... Mr. Philpott
Jennifer Enskat ... Mrs. Philpott
Buz Davis Buz Davis ... Detective Harvey
Barry Mulholland Barry Mulholland ... Captain Millard
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Storyline

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.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

From the Novel by Patricia Highsmith.

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 December 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Blunderer See more »

Filming Locations:

Cincinnati, Ohio, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$978, 16 December 2016, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,806, 23 December 2016
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Killer Films See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | SDDS | Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Hayley Bennett's character Ellie is singing in the club, it is actually Haley Bennett who sings the song "I can't Escape from You". See more »

Goofs

When Clara tells Walter that she'll go see a psychiatrist, she rushes over and embraces him with her hand on his lower torso. When the shot changes, her hand has moved high up on his chest. See more »

Quotes

Walter Stackhouse: I have this fantasy.That she's no longer there. I haven't done anything.I didn't set out to tell such stupid lies.I wanted to see if he looked like a man who murdered his wife.Wishing someone dead. It's fascinating.I haven't done anything wrong.We're all guilty of something. I'm a writer.I write stories.
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Connections

Version of Enough Rope (1963) See more »

Soundtracks

I Can't Escape From You
Written by Leo Robin and Richard A. Whiting (as Richard Whiting)
Performed by Haley Bennett
Arrangement by Julie Spangler
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User Reviews

 
The film seems more interested in its art design then in fully developing the story's underlying sexual ethics.
26 February 2017 | by asifahsankhanSee all my reviews

Andy Goddard's A Kind of Murder aspires to be a feminist detective thriller (adapted by screenwriter Susan Boyd from Patricia Highsmith's 1954 novel The Blunderer). But the film, set in 1960s New York, seems far more interested in its art design then in fully developing the story's underlying sexual ethics. Even the casting suggests that its producers hope to benefit from the nostalgia generated for that time and place by Mad Men: One of that show's principal actors, Vincent Kartheiser, plays the film's sleuth, Detective Lawrence Corby, who tries to unravel the mystery surrounding two women found dead at the same suburban bus station several weeks apart.

The film opens with the first murder, that of the wife of an unprepossessing bookstore owner, Mr. Kimmel (Eddie Marsan), whom Corby suspects of committing the crime. The murder also captures the attention of Walter Stackhouse (Patrick Wilson), a successful architect and amateur writer of detective mysteries. Stackhouse does some investigation of Kimmel on his own, and in the process implicates himself in the second murder. Stackhouse works in the city and lives in the suburbs with his paranoid and depressive wife, Clara (Jessica Biel). Sexually frustrated as a result of her various neuroses, Stackhouse meets a seductive young jazz singer, Ellie (Haley Bennett), thus setting into motion the film's nourish romantic subplot.

As I've mentioned beforehand, the film doesn't fully develop the story and it's underlying sexual ethics, rather it seems more interested in its art design.

The central murder mystery is handled without much aplomb or ingenuity. Corby is a clumsy dick, and his investigation plays out like a humourless parody of a detective film. Albeit exquisitely packaged, A Kind of Murder is mostly a paint-by-numbers genre piece that only flares into life when exploring issues of sin, guilt, and punishment in relation to masculine sexual urges. As in many film Noirs, murder here is explicitly linked to thwarted lust. The film takes the standard Christian condemnation of adultery that leads fornicators to the jailhouse or the grave in most Noirs and endows it with a feminist twist. The biblical exhortation against lusting after another woman becomes here a critique of male sexual license in America on the eve of the sexual revolution.

This appropriation of Christian morality for feminist ends is illustrated by Stackhouse's relationship with Ellie. She's the Eve to his Adam, tempting him away from his well-lighted, idyllic suburban home to a dimly lit underground jazz club in Greenwich Village. But the film emphasises her neutrality in this process, pointing out that it's Stackhouse's prerogative that sets the affair in motion. While Ellie is a willing participant in the drama, she's far from the sexually assertive she-devil that Clara makes her out to be. This emphasis on Stackhouse's culpability and refusal to judge Ellie captures America's evolving morality during that period, when Eisenhower-era family values were giving way to a greater emphasis on sexual liberation and gender equality.

The film's muted cinematography coincides with the ethical murkiness of Stackhouse's behaviour as he journeys from the paradise of sacred matrimony to the hell of infidelity. His symbolic castration by Clara causes him to stray in his heart before he does so with his body, and the film's denouement reveals this to be a tale of feminist revenge from beyond the grave masquerading as a Christian parable about the dangers of carnal desire outside of marriage. As Stackhouse sits in his firm's office beneath an abstract expressionist painting, perplexedly trying to rationalise his immoral behaviour to his business partner, the art's wild, swirling colours hint at the moral revolution soon to be unleashed upon the nation and the confusion it would sow in its wake.


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