Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Perfect Witness AKA The Ungodly

The Perfect Witness is also known as The Ungodly. For some reason, this dark thriller didn’t make it to the big screen. Although far from being a blockbuster, I felt that The Perfect Witness was as good as many of the thrillers that have been in theaters lately. This movie probably would have had a niche audience and might have created a decent amount of revenue. Serial killers seem to be a popular thriller theme, with everything from Hannibal to the Showtime series Dexter delving into the subject.

Rather than simply pitting the police against a killer, we get insight from an amateur documentary producer (Mickey Gravatski…played by Wes Bentley) who has carefully tracked the killer with eerie precision. Gravatski studies the scenes where several of the killings happened, looking for evidence from nearby areas. He uses that information to lie in wait, capturing a killing on videotape. Gravatski uses this tape to strike a deal with the killer (James Lemac…played by Mark Borkowski) to produce a documentary. Lemac unwillingly agrees to the arrangement, videotaping insights into his background and charitable work. Lemac slowly pries information from Gravatski until he gets enough to turn the tables on his blackmailer. Gravatski ends up on the wrong side of the blackmail, but continues to uncover details regarding Lemac’s childhood and family. The juxtaposition of the characters and personal interactions provide tense situations that keep the audience guessing.

The Perfect Witness was well cast, with Borkowski presenting a riveting performance as a dark brooding emotionally scarred serial killer who hides his transgressions behind his charitable work with cancer stricken children. His tense edginess brings credibility to a character that has a little bit of depth. His chemistry with Bentley is interesting. The movie hinges on the performance and interaction of these two characters in a cat-and-mouse sort of way. Bentley is a recovering drug addict that ends up slipping back into his altered states as pressure mounts on him. The visible changes in behavior are a tribute to his excellent performance. Joanne Baron performs the role of Lemac’s sister Megan. Baron does a good job in her limited role, showing anguish and fear without overdoing it. Beth Grant had an extremely limited role as Lemac’s mother. She was okay, but didn’t have much to work with. The cast as a whole were solid, with the primary characters bringing a degree of plausibility to a rather difficult to accept premise.

The writing in The Perfect Witness was decent, primarily in the area of dialogue. The exchanges between the characters provided insight into their mental processes and often involved deep philosophical exchanges. The premise that provides the foundation of the story requires a good stretch of the imagination. But as a guy that enjoys the Dexter series, I guess I shouldn’t be pointing out the faults of believability. The plot is interesting because it takes a different tack on the serial killer thriller genre. The involvement of the characters provides an interesting backdrop for the story. My main problems with the writing were two-fold. First, the characters were slightly developed, but could have used a bit more latitude. Second, the ending left a lot to be desired. It wasn’t a bad ending and it certainly wasn’t predictable. But it sort of left a lot of loose ends hanging. I hate that feeling at the end of a movie. A bit more closure would have made this movie exceptional for me. As it stands, it was a decent script that was worth watching but nothing spectacular.

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