Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

This movie ‘The Perfect Witness’, which I thought was a fairly lame title to a film I personally thought was very good, opens with a character we will come to know as Mick Gravatski (Wes Bentley) observing a dark alley with his camcorder. The subject of Mick’s observation is one Jimmy Lemac (Mark Borkowski) who pulls some woman out of a building in this dark alley and then guts her. Turns out that Jimmy is a serial killer and that Mick has been following Jimmy around for a while for a documentary he is shooting. You know those little red lights on the camera that light up when the thing is recording? Mick might have wanted to duct tape that because it can be seen from like miles away and soon Mick is running for his life.

Though Mick escapes by the narrowest of margins he is suddenly struck with a bolt of creative lightning. Now most of us who have a videotape showing a serial killer clearly gutting some woman would probably just forward that on to the proper authorities, but Mick happens to be a recovering alcoholic junkie so it is apparent that Jack and Crack have robbed my man of his clear thinking brain cells. Mick, despite the vehemently strong protestations of his film partner and editor Gino (Alberto Lopez Murta) decides to actually confront Jimmy and blackmail him into allowing him full access into his life, with the threat of the tape being forwarded to the cops should he decline. Yes this could very well be dumbest plan in the history of the planet earth, but the groundwork for ‘The Perfect Witness’ has been laid as Jimmy reluctantly agrees as he allows Mick into his life to hopefully learn why this man is gutting women, gouging out their eyes and keeping those eyes in baby food jars.

Sure enough we get to meet Jimmy and learn about his life, mostly through his frazzled older sister Megan (Joanne Baron), and not surprisingly Jimmy’s childhood wasn’t exactly ideal. One thing we do know is that a clever person such as Jimmy, who has

been murdering and avoiding the police for as long as he has, isn’t going to sit around and allow his strings to be pulled by an ex-crackhead junkie. Not surprisingly it isn’t long until the tables are turned within the cracked relationship of these two incredibly cracked individuals with Mick practically becoming Jimmy’s accomplice in crime. However, despite the fact that Jimmy is tougher, meaner, and smarter than Mick, everybody has a weakness. Mick’s is booze and drugs and Jimmy’s is… well… Mick has to luck out and find out what Jimmy’s weakness is since it’s probably the only thing that’s going to be able to save his ass.

Unsettling would be a word I would use to describe this film directed by Thomas Dunn and written by Dunn and the film’s star Mark Borkowski. ‘The Perfect Witness’ offers a unique twist which freshens the rather stale serial killer genre considerably and is a film whose main strengths lies with its characters and its gritty unforgiving atmosphere. Though this is a film that is probably categorized in genre as a thriller, it’s probably more of a horror film in presentation and this is mainly due to Mark Borkowski’s brutal, creepy and unflinchingly harsh portrayal of serial killer Jimmy Lemac. I’ve never even heard of Mr. Borkoswski before this movie but either this cat is one hell of a good actor or he seriously needs to be locked up. One or the other man… one or the other. On the other side of the equation is Wes Bentley’s Mick, and while it could easily be argued that Mick Gravatski is the stupidest man on the face the earth, the character that Bentley has created is still very human, tangible, authentic and depressingly sympathetic. In the absence of expensive special effects, camera tricks and fancy post production graphics ‘The Perfect Witness’ pretty much relies on pure talent. The writer’s talent to write, the actor’s ability to take the dialog and create within that dialog, and the director talent to capture it all and send it off to a talented editor to stitch it together and make a film that works. For me at least, it worked masterfully. This wasn’t an overly violent or vicious film, but the scenes of violence that were here were so hardened and grounded in reality that it put all those torture horror type films that are filled with so much gore that it’s actually numbing, to complete and total shame. Expertly paced this was simply just a very good film.

Despite my praise of this film there is a problem, and it’s a fairly considerable one. This would be that the entire concept is pretty damn implausible. This implausibility probably wouldn’t matter as much if the film were based on a more unrealistic platform like one of those Jason or Freddy style movies, but this is a movie whose most critical strength is the fact that it feels so real. Thus the launching point of the film does border slightly on the ridiculous and the character of Mick, possibly due to his substance problems, does some really dumb stuff that you are forced to accept, while also being so clever at various points that even Columbo would say ‘damn’.

Regardless, ‘The Perfect Witness’, originally titled ‘The Ungodly’ and changed for reasons I can’t begin to offer up, is one fine, very unsettling, very impressive and well acted film from director Thomas Dunn which adheres to the principle that less can indeed be more. Highly recommended.

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