Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Dateline Nowheresville USA. I’m not completely sure where this movie ‘The Killing Jar’ takes place but it’s somewhere flat where towns are far, far apart. Kansas or Nebraska comes to mind. Somewhere in Nowheresville some people are sitting in a diner. You know the place. It’s a little dirty, there’s a cranky dude behind the grill, it has and old jukebox that plays songs that sound familiar even though I couldn’t tell you what they are, all of the patrons are familiar with each other and to keep everything on the artistic tip director Mark Young shows a lot of close-ups of stuff like buttons and fingers with these images loaded up with lots of depth of field in camera effects. Artistic.

These familiar people in this diner consist of Noreen (Amber Benson) the waitress whose suffering from some Middletown Blues, there’s the cranky dude behind the grill in Jimmy (Danny Trejo) who makes the best Pecan Pie this side of Somewhereville, there’s deputy Lonnie (Lew Temple) who makes Barney Fife look like Mannix and there’s Hank the Truck Driver (Kevin Gage). We don’t know if he’s a truck driver for real but he feels like a truck driver to us. In the back of the diner are young lovers Billy (Talan Torriero) and Starr (Lindsey Axelsson) who are getting the hell out this town to fulfill their Middletown Dreams. Both of these kids will alternate in being the ‘We All Gonna Die’ guy in this movie. The new guy in all of this is Mr. Dixon (Harold Perrineau) a salesman who just stopped in to grab a cup of coffee and be on his merry way.

Then this guy walks in. Let’s just call him Doe (Michael Madsen). Earlier we are told that somebody slaughtered a family of four in a nearby town and this cat here is acting mighty weird with Noreen the waitress thinking this guy just might be the killer. Lonnie the deputy makes the fateful mistake of messing with this guy, because he is a little sweet on Noreen so he will do almost any stupid thing she asks him to. It doesn’t look like he’s the guy, so he leaves… mighty upset at these people for messing with him. However he didn’t go far, just out to his truck to get his shotgun where he proceeds to blow people’s heads off. I guess he is the guy.

Now we have what they call a ‘situation’. There’s a couple of dead dudes without heads lying in the middle of the floor with the rest of our crew being held hostage by a lunatic who has no real plan. A few minutes later a strange guy dressed in green (Jake Busey) stops by to give this strange man his money for a job well done. Apparently the death of that family was no random act. But now we have another situation. Doe claims he’s not the guy. He looks like he’s the guy to us, but he says no, he is not. It looks like one of our Diner members is the guy. Doe is nuts so he could be the guy and just forgot, but that’s not going to stop him from torturing people to find out who this guy is. Not in the name of justice, but because he is sick in the head and likes to torture people. But who is the guy? If anybody?

To be completely honest with you the majority of ‘The Killing Jar’ is plagued with tedium and boredom. For a movie that’s supposed to be a thriller there just aren’t a lot of thrills to be had. A lot of people get their heads blown off and people get tortured and all, but that all by itself isn’t particularly thrilling. Close up shots of fingers pressing buttons and closer shots of globs of blood stuck to kitchen appliances didn’t help all that much.

Since this is a movie that takes place in a single location the actors involved are pretty critical in making this movie a success. It’s always interesting to watch Kevin Gage work, Harold Perinneau is about as under-appreciated an actor as there is and Danny Trejo looked like he was just doing somebody a favor working behind a counter for the brief time he was in this movie. Michael Madsen, not surprisingly, seemed sleepy and disconnected as per usual but he’s crazy in this movie so I guess maybe that approach worked on some level, and while we’ve seen Amber Benson impressively show her stuff in some good movies, ‘Strictly Sexual’ and the severed penis monster movie ‘One Eyed Monster’ come to mind, her character Noreen in this movie seemed like the unholy marriage of The Rainman and Flo from Alice. I’m not too sure that approach worked all that well here.

Ah… but there was a moment in this movie when all was right. Where Michael Madsen wasn’t as sleepy and Harold Perrineau was allowed to go to work and the dialog that director Mark Young had written had energy and electricity. The close-ups and the depth of field took a break and those irritating kids in the corner stopped whining and we were watching some quality cinema in the making. That ten minute section of this movie was really that good.

But was the entirety of ‘The Killing Jar’, which as we have already mentioned was pretty damned tedious, worth watching to get to ten minutes of inspiration? Since inspiration is so rare, we’d have to say yes… but that’s a personal thing. You might think that sitting though 90 minutes worth tedium to get to ten minutes worth of good stuff as complete foolishness, and I can’t argue with you on that one.

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