On one particular day, in this movie ‘As good as Dead’, after a spirited sermon of hate as delivered by the good Reverend Kalahan (Brian Cox), one of his flock apparently mistook his words as a catalyst for carnage, mainly because the Reverend basically told him to create carnage, walks onto a school bus full of brown people and lays them waste with his handy shotgun before taking his own life. For whatever reason certain people are holding the Rev personally responsible for this slaughter as shown by the Rev, his wife Helen (Andie McDowell) and their young son being accosted in their car by armed gunmen, the boy removed and the Reverend and his wife set on fire.
Fast forward ten years or so where we get to hang out some with photojournalist Ethan Belfrage (Cary Elwes). Ethan is a strange dude who constantly battles with his landlord who wants to kick him out of his apartment in between taking care of his young daughter Sarah (Emma Kantor) and pissing off his ex-wife Kate (Nicole Ansari-Cox). So when weird things start happening to Ethan around his domicile, such as strangers banging on his door at odd times of the day or it looks like people are breaking into his home, Ethan is convinced his landlord is doing these things. He should be so lucky to have such a crazy landlord as things turn out.
No, Ethan has a White Supremacist Problem. This is never a good problem to have. In his apartment Ethan meets crazed white supremacist Aaron (Frank Whaley) and his young crazed assistant Jake (Matt Dallas). They shoot Ethan’s dog, beat him up for a while then toss him into a chained up refrigerator. Why are they doing this to poor Ethan? Well, when the Reverend’s wife Helen reappears, all burnt up and crippled, she explains to Ethan that they know that he was one of the gunman that murdered her husband, set her on fire and took her son. Mother and son have been reunited, that’s Jake, and these three have been searching for a long time to get their revenge.
These three came to this conclusion by finding and torturing some other dude who, for whatever reason, fingered Ethan who continuously proclaims his innocence. True
enough the rather mild Ethan doesn’t seem like the masked gunman commando type, and as he is consistently tortured by these people the likelihood of him actually being a badass is becoming less and less likely because eventually he starts crying and begging like a sissy.
Still, Aaron is convinced he’s their guy and amps up his torture techniques to include friends and family to get the confession he needs to go ahead and pull the trigger. Helen, however, is starting to have her doubts, not wanting deep six the wrong guy. Aaron points out that breaking into a dudes house, torturing him and killing a few neighbors, wrong guy or not, you pretty much have to see this thing though. Hate to have to side with a White Supremacist here but Aaron has a point. The question remains, is Ethan their guy? And how is he going to wriggle out of this terrible situation he has found himself in?
Sitting around a few minutes contemplating director Jonathan Mossek’s film ‘As Good as Dead’ I am left with the feeling that this is a movie that is unfortunately trapped in mediocre-ville. This is one those rare movies that I’m actually struggling with to convey a semi-lucid opinion of because there is nothing overtly wrong with this film. The story it is telling is clear and concise, Frank Whaley has pretty much mastered the art of the ‘slimy villain’ since the poor man is being type cast as this dude in most of the movies I’ve seen him in recently, Cary Elwes does a good job of being tortured while Andie McDowell and Matt Dallas convincingly traverse the terrain from certainty to doubt.
But despite the reasonably clear narrative and the solid performances the movie didn’t draw me into its story. I believe this is due to the fact that I, personally, didn’t have a vested interest in the well being or outcome of any of the characters. Innocent or not Cary Elwes character of Ethan is kind of an asshole. On the other side we have the White Supremacist, clearly our villains in this piece so seeing things from their point view isn’t the design though McDowell’s and Dallas’ character become somewhat more sympathetic as the movie plays itself out. There are innocents introduced like Jess Weixler as the cute downstairs neighbor and the wife and child but it wasn’t enough engage me into their plight.
Then there was the end-game which throws a narrative that was pretty clear, slightly off the tracks a little. It’s not an out of left field, totally in-congruent type conclusion but it does cause one to question some events or characters we have previously seen.
Again, ‘As Good as Dead’ isn’t a bad movie, it’s just a movie that doesn’t ‘take off’ like I think it should have. Considering the fine cast and the explosive subject matter, this is slightly disappointing to me.