Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Joel Bryant, as effectively played by actor Matthew Lillard in this thriller ‘Messages Deleted’, is a failing screenwriter. He’s also a college professor down a the Local U teaching a class on screenwriting but whenever he was asked what he does for a living in this movie, he always answered with ‘Screenwriter’ which is almost the equivalent of saying ‘unemployed loser’ unless, of course, you’ve actually sold something which Joel has not. I think I would roll with ‘College Professor’ when asked that question. Anyway our college professor is walking out of the coffee house with his ex-girlfriend Claire (Chiara Zanni) when some dude falls from the sky, all f’d up, right in front them. The odd thing about this is that this dead dude called Joel on his home answering machine mere hours before he fell from the sky begging for help. Joel, thinking it was his friend playing a joke, deleted the message and now the basis for our little wannabe thriller has been launched.

Joel tells tough cop Detective Lavery (Deborah Kara Unger) and her surly partner Detective Breedlove (Serge Houde) about what just happened but they don’t believe him and thinks he’s just some random stupid loon, but they do have their eye on him. Then Joel gets another message but this time he races to the scene to try to save this woman and he makes sure that this time he does not delete the message. Unfortunately he is too late to save this woman though our pair of tough cops, who are on the scene when Joel arrives, are seriously eyeing Joel as a Person of Interest in these two deaths, plus the message he saved has been magically deleted, yet again.

Joel might not be the brightest bulb in the box but he knows that someone is targeting him for some reason or another with the main question being ‘why’? Plus our secretive killer has become more bold in targeting Joel, now completely setting him up to catch a murder case which has my man on the run and seeking refuge. To that end he has

enlisted the help of one of his students, the lovely Millie (Gina Holden) who has all kinds ‘come in handy’ type skills like the ability to fight, a secret hideout, supreme intelligence and access to firearms. She’s like Bruce Wayne only with boobies and no money.

Joel has even discovered part of the reason behind this personal hell that he has been thrust into as this situation is following one of his many forgotten screenplays, but the question of course remains why is this mysterious individual systematically dismantling Joel’s life and of course, it is a whodunit, so we need to know ‘who’. I smell a twist coming down our way.

For the most part director Rob Cowan’s direction of Larry Cohen’s screenplay for ‘Messages Deleted’ was a perfectly functional thriller. It wasn’t doing anything particularly special or unique to the thriller genre but it was well acted by Matthew Lillard, Deborah Kara Unger and Gina Holden and it was telling its story in an effective manner. Every once in a while the pacing of the whole affair would get a bit staid and the mind would wander, but then I do have a short attention span so don’t we blame the filmmakers too much for that. So if ‘Messages Deleted’ has stayed true to the path it was traveling down, stayed true to the story that it was telling, admittedly we wouldn’t be lauding it with praise because as a film it really isn’t praise worthy, but we would give it credit for being functional at what it seemed like initially it was setting out accomplish. Then came the twist.

We’ve mentioned this before but a good movie twist keeps you in the dark and then when sprung on us manages to surprise while making complete sense within the framework of what we have just seen. Then there’s the ‘bad twist’. The Bad Twist is pretty much launched from deep right field, completely out of nowhere and renders everything we’ve seen prior to it completely inert. ‘Messages Deleted’ has a bad twist. It’s a terrible twist. It’s the kind of twist that makes you regret that you have seen the movie because it makes no sense in the framework of the movie we’ve seen to this point and now we’ve wasted our time. Now we have to ask ourselves stupid questions. So if THIS happened then why did we see THAT? Well, as it turns out THAT didn’t really happen or at least it couldn’t have happened could it? All of this inane uncertainty was injected in the final scene of this movie, a scene the editor could’ve completely left out to be honest with you. The movie would’ve concluded on an open ended tip a bit, another thing we aren’t necessarily fond of, but it would’ve better than what they ended up doing.

As I stated earlier ‘Messages Deleted’ wasn’t spectacular by any means but at least it was functional, and in this day an age functional ain’t so bad. Then they had to go and try to get clever on us and turn functional into complete nonsense and that is just too bad.

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