September 25, 2011

Filthy Review - The River Murders

The River Murders (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

Regardless of any films he has filmed since, and I am guessing any that he films in the future, Ray Liotta will forever be remembered in his role as Henry Hill in Goodfellas. Sure, he starred in a great flick before that, in Something Wild, and has appeared in terrific movies since, such as Cop Land, but we will always look to Scorcese’s masterpiece when we look back over his career.

So, when approaching The River Murders it was with a sense of apprehension, I mean I knew I wasn’t going to be watching a movie of Goodfellas caliber, but the hope was there that it would be half decent. The cast alone showed promise, as alongside Liotta there is Christian Slater, who has made some bloody good films even though we are going back about 20 years again to find them, and Ving Rhames, who will forever be remembered as Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction despite having turned in some enjoyable roles in movies since then. What we have then is a straight to DVD thriller starring B list actors that have starred in some A list movies in their careers.

The River Murders focuses on Jack Verdon (Liotta), a detective who is called to a murder scene only to discover that the victim is a past lover of his. His Captain (Rhames) is forced to take him off the case seeing as he is now a suspect. Over the course of time more bodies turn up, again each one is connected to Verdon.

Due to these murders being quite obviously connected and of the serial killing variety the FBI is called in. Enter Agent Vuckovitch (Slater), who is determined to pin the murders on Verdon, unless the hapless detective can clear his name.

What we have here is a surprisingly solid thriller especially when Liotta is on screen, which is quite a fair chunk of its running time. Director Rich Cowan keeps the action moving along and offers us a movie that is not so much of a whodunit as it is a why did they do it? You’ll discover quite early on that the filmmakers make no bones about revealing the killer’s identity. This way is a little more interesting though, even if some of the potential tension is removed, and whilst the subject matter is at times quite graphic the makers refrain from showing the nastier elements instead letting us picture it in our minds.

Where The River Murders does fall a little flat though is when Slater is on screen. For some reason he still feels the need to go into Jack Nicholson-lite mode which totally kills any atmosphere and feels completely out of place. This sort of performance was just fine and dandy 20 years back when he was a kid, but not in a movie like this when he is supposed to be playing an FBI agent. On the same note Rhames felt a little underused as Captain Langley and really only serves to add another name to the cast.

When it comes to the killer you better be prepared for one of the preaching variety. A comparison to Seven is plastered across the DVD sleeve but this is definitely not Fincher’s masterwork, even if there are a few similarities in the approach of the killer. Instead what The River Murders is is a solid if uninspiring thriller that works only due to the strength of Liotta’s performance.

The River Murders is worth a rental if serial killer flicks are your thing, although I would probably hold back on a purchase.

The River Murders is available on DVD now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool, I will rent it then, I almost picked it up, because I am a serial killer movie fan but was on hold about it. Like you said Ray was awesome in Copland I loved him in that. It's a shame he does get type cast in roles, always the screaming cop. Slater I have always been a fan for some reason but he does tend to get on your nerves at times, or all the time in some movies. Ving is Ving. Great write up, I think I will rent it just because it's a serial killer movie.