Fifteen minutes into this movie, before the very first murder victim turned up, I figured out who the murderer was. That left me the rest of the movie to ponder much more fascinating mysteries, like why any of these people agreed to be in it. I remember when Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia, and David Strathairn, and especially director Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff) had some class and credibility. I even remember when Ashley Judd made movies that were not about spunky but sensitive women in peril who do not know whom they can trust. But that all feels very long ago.
Judd plays Jessica Shephard. We first see her with a knife at her throat. She overpowers her attacker and then, when he is cuffed and on his knees, she kicks him in the nose. She is promoted for the capture by police chief John Mills (Samuel L. Jackson), but sent to the police psychiatrist (David Strathairn) for counseling. The first murder she and her new partner (Andy Garcia) are assigned to turns out to be the first in a series of connected murders. Each of the victims has been marked on the back of the hand with a cigarette burn. And each had a one-night stand with Jessica. She is too good a detective to deny that “I’m my best suspect.” Her father was a murderer who killed her mother and then committed suicide. And she is having blackouts, and has no alibi for the nights of the murders.
Everything after that is numbingly predictable. Jessica is supposed to be a great detective, but she keeps missing clues the size of the Chrysler Building. Could that be the murderer? Nope, he’s the next victim. Well, we’ve never seen that before! Not since the last made-for-TNT movie starring some one-time fifth-billed sitcom star working off a contract provision left over from better days. Jessica pricks her finger to get a blood sample. Can she be like Sleeping Beauty? Can symbolism be more heavy-handed? There is a good idea in there somewhere about resolving guilt and insecurity, but it is all lost because this movie is inept and it is boring.
Parents should know that this movie has grisly dead bodies and characters in intense peril. There is fighting and shooting and characters are killed. The movie also has some very strong language, including a very ugly epithet. Characters smoke and drink, one to excess. Some are drugged. There’s an attempted suicide.
Jessica says, “I was raised to be a good girl but I was born to bad people.” Families who see this movie should talk about the nature vs. nurture question. What can we change about ourselves? How do we know?
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the far superior Sea of Love and The Big Easy. They might also like to see Andy Garcia in another sultry cop drama Internal Affairs.