Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

A woman is found floating in the river and hardcore detective Jack Verdon (Ray Liotta) is called to the scene. Actually, his partner Jenny (Sarah Ann Schultz) fetches Jack from the restaurant his wife Ana (Giselle Fraga) works at. Jenny is wearing a 1960’s styled mini-outfit with white go-go boots and her boobies are pushed up to just beneath her chin. Jenny informs us that she was supposed to be going to one of those ‘throwback’ parties, and this is why she is walking around looking this. Jenny will proceed to go to the crime scene like this, and then back to the precinct dressed like this. At some point Jenny probably should’ve changed clothes. If I were actress Sarah Ann Schultz, I would’ve complained. Nonetheless, this victim is familiar to these officers since she works in the D.A.’s office, but she’s really familiar to Jack since he used to do her. Damn if they didn’t find this poor woman at the last place that these two got down, right by the river. Jack likes to have sex outdoors by the river for some reason. Detective Jack points this out to his boss Captain Langley (Ving Rhames), and rightfully so, that this makes him suspect. Imagine what Jack’s boss is going to say when the next woman turns up dead in the river, and that Jack had sex with her too. And the next one. This is probably why they called this movie ‘The River Murders’ though I probably would’ve opted for a less descriptive, more exploitative title to be honest with you that had the word ‘sex’ and some conjugation of the word ‘death’ somewhere.

Clearly we have a mystery on our hands. Kind of. It’s a mystery for the characters in our movie, but not for us because we know full well whose killing these people because it’s that guy right there (Michael Rodrick), though we’ll have to wait a minute to find out why he’s killing Jack’s lovely liaisons, and jamming stuff up in their private parts, post mortem. So vile are these crimes that the FBI, in the form surly agent Vukovitch (Christian Slater) had to be called in, and his first order of business is for Jack to generate a list of every woman he’s ever slept with, since all of them are in danger. Well, Jack was nothing if not prolific. Believe that. Chances are if you are a female and lived wherever this movie takes place, you and your mom had sex with Jack Verdon. In addition to these murders, Jack’s mother recently passed away, we assume by accident and not by serial killing, his wife had no idea that her husband was such a studly lothario and is none too happy about it, putting the bitchy wife meter on level ten, plus she’s a potential victim, and even though Jack gave Agent Vucovitch his massive list, there is one name conveniently left off of it. But the bad guy knows who it is, yes he does.

So why is this guy doing these things? Well of course we can’t divulge that information but it has something to do with Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, I just can’t figure out which angle this movie is shooting from.

Director Rich Cowan’s little Straight to DVD serial killing thriller isn’t getting a lot of love out there, but I actually kind of liked it. True enough, the core of the narrative isn’t all that fresh or original… what is nowadays… and the police procedurals supporting the movie are also standard movie fare, which means the cops investigating these crimes are grossly incompetent, but the sleazy, exploitative nature of the story did make it more interesting to watch. In fact, I’m of the opinion that if the director had shelved all pretense of class and perceived good taste, and allowed this film to travel down the sleazy path it seemed destined for, then we would’ve had a way more interesting movie. Since far too many of these film exist in a sea of sameness, today’s films and their filmmakers need to do something to separate their movies to attract more eyeballs, and ‘The River Murders’ had the potential to do this. For full disclosures sake, I have been watching a lot of 80’s era Italian exploitation films lately which execute this simple plan quite beautifully, but despite the sleazy nature of the story, ‘The River Murders’ plays it relatively safe.

That being said, the movie isn’t without value. The rainy, dreary conditions and muted colors add to the oppressive atmosphere that exists in the movie, and while there was no mystery to follow as far as this movie being a ‘whodunit’, the gradual dissemination of information throughout the movie in regards to our killer was an effective device in keeping the viewer interested.

As far as performances go, Ray Liotta apparently stopped ‘acting’ years ago and from what I’ve seen, just brings a stock character to the numerous roles he accepts. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, just Ray being Ray. Christian Slater did liven things up considerably with his completely inappropriate FBI agent, but Michael Rodrick’s serial killer was a curiosity. The fact that his character was so clean cut and polite took some of the edge off of his crazy. The problem this presents is that what he was doing was so illogical and nutty, but his character never came off as either illogical or nutty. How did that guy get from here to there?

Regardless, that’s over thinking it, which is something that you really don’t need to do with ‘The River Murders’. I do think this was a passable serial killer flick with a suitably sleazy story to support it, but it ended up being more ‘run of the mill’ than it had to be, when it had the potential to be a little more than that. Or less, depending on your opinion of sleaze.

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