Matt Hookings performed all of his stunts, including the driving scenes. See more »
A solid British drama which peaks when it's not trying to imitate the style of an American thriller.
The likes of TV shows and movies such as Midsomer Murders, Miss Marple and more recently Broadchurch and Beast have proven that being a resident of an aesthetically perfect British town is severely detrimental to your health.
The same applies to Dom Lenoir's Winter Ridge, in which a serial killer who is targeting the elderly is on the loose in a picturesque seaside village. Detective Ryan Barnes and his newcomer partner Tom Harris are tasked with solving the case, but Ryan is struggling to come to terms with a personal trauma happening at the same time. His wife is in a coma after a car crash and it's looking unlikely that she will ever fully recover.
As the investigation comes to a head, Barnes is forced to accept that there are parallels between his own wife and the victims, causing him to question his moral beliefs. As he desperately searches for the culprit, Barnes' doubts increase; do the suggested motives of the crimes fit the killer he is chasing?
Matt Hookings leads the cast as Detective Ryan Barnes, a man whose proverbial plate is fuller than customers at an all-you-can-eat buffet. His performance is passable, but I felt he's been asked to vary his emotions far too much and instead settles for a middle ground of blank neutrality. There's the occasional outburst or scene of sorrow, but they're not quite convincing enough to impress. Still, it's a promising turn from Hookings in his first headlining production.
The standout performances here though are undoubtedly those of Ian Pirie and Hannah Waddingham. Pirie is ferocious as the troubled town drunk Mike Evans and continues his outstanding run of performances after starring in the menacing Netflix thriller Calibre. Waddingham is on the other end of the emotional scale as caring grief councillor Joanne Hill, and plays a large part in the success of the deeper themes that run through Winter Ridge.
On the surface, the film appears to be a straightforward serial killer thriller, but by the end there are some pressing questions asked and points raised about mental health, loneliness and isolation. These mainly come from Barnes' interactions with veteran performer Alan Ford (Snatch, Cockneys vs. Zombies and the definitely innocent gangster on Alan Partridge's Knowing Me, Knowing You) as ailing Dale Jacobs. It doesn't do much to answer them, and disappointingly the importance of them are largely diluted by its exaggerated conclusion, but it's respectable of screenwriter Ross Owen Williams to shed light on these topics.
Winter Ridge shines more in the moments of heartfelt drama between Barnes and his wife or the elderly residents than it does when trying to be thrilling. I found the chase scenes to be unnecessary and didn't fit with the rest of the film's tone. This is especially distracting in one scene where the two detectives pursue a suspect, alone, all guns blazing. I know it's fictional, but something about seeing British detectives holding pistols and flashlights as if they were in an episode of CSI didn't sit right with me.
I would've liked to see an attempt at more of an actual investigation in its place. Save for the standard drawing pin board of newspaper articles and a few coroner reports, the detectives jump from one lead to another, usually finding exactly what they're after. It doesn't help that the village seems to only have about four people living there, including the police officers and one of the most lenient Captains in the country who pretty much lets the duo do what they like as long as they aren't bothering him. If they do, it's a stern ticking off with no lasting repercussions. Understandable though; if the pair are fired, or at the very least suspended, there's absolutely no one in the village to replace them.
Nevertheless, a few strong performances and thought-provoking themes make Winter Ridge worth a visit, even if it's just a passing one.
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