The River Murders

The River Murders (DVD Cover)

Cast: Jack Verdon (Ray Liotta), Ana Verdon (Gisele Fraga), FBI Agent Vuckovitch (Christian Slater), Captain Art Langley (Ving Rhames), John Lee (Michael Rodrick), Jenny Tate (Sarah Ann Schultz)

Director: Rich Cowan

Theatrical release: 07/01/2011
DVD Date: 09/20/2011

Rating: R
Running Time: 92 minutes

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The River Murders

Review: The River Murders doesn't boast a single frame of originality but that isn't its biggest problem. No, that belongs to the direction and, to a lesser extent, the actors, who by and large seem to want to be anywhere other than in this film.

The clichéd and contrived storyline is familiar to the point of being boring. A serial killer — a religious fanatic, like you didn't see that coming — is selecting his victims based on their past relationship to Seattle police detective Jack Verdon (Ray Liotta). Most of them are women with whom he had a sexual relationship, but there are others, whose links to Verdon remain elusive. At least to the fictional cops. Since we know who the killer is and the motive behind the murders from almost the very beginning, there's little mystery as to the whos and whys. But a lot of movies have familiar storylines; that doesn't necessarily make them bad. Rather it is the whole look and feel to the movie that is so confounding. It looks like it was filmed over a weekend, with the first and only take used for each scene. The amateurish quality to filmmaking here is a bit shocking, especially given the cast … none of whom, admittedly, are A-list but at least they have name recognition. I have to believe they didn't realize at the time their practice script run-throughs were going to be the actual footage used in the film.

It's endlessly frustrating when supposedly smart people do dumb things in a film — or in a book, for that matter. Here, it's one dumb thing after another, which I suppose can be attributed more to the screenwriter than the director or actors. Again, this isn't necessarily fatal to a film but for a thriller, there are surprisingly few thrills and virtually no suspense whatsoever. There's not even much action to distract you from the dumb things the characters are doing.

Is there anything good about the film? Yes … so it's not a complete loss. The soundtrack, especially the chorals towards the end, is intriguingly moody, enhancing some scenes while not detracting from others. And most of the exterior shots are well done, visually interesting and atmospheric, appropriate to the purported theme of the movie though a bit wasted given how poor the resulting film actually is. Also, it's only 92 minutes long, so there's something to be said for that. But none of this is enough to provoke a recommendation from me; it is largely a disappointing waste of otherwise decent acting talent.


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