A Kind of Murder, based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith
Although interesting and captivating, this motion picture has not caught the attention of critics and audiences, enjoying a Metascore of 50 and little critical acclaim.
Patrick Wilson is an excellent actor- testimony for this statement would be his brilliant performances in Little Children, the series Fargo and other features- and he gives has a solid presence in the role of the protagonist of this psychological thriller, Walter Stackhouse.
He is a rich, successful architect, Walter Stackhouse, interested in writing stories, married to the resplendent Clara Stackhouse aka Jessica Biel, who seems to be adopting the wrong attitudes and antagonizing the hero.
Early on, in the first scenes in fact, we see her husband rushing to the bus station, where she is ready to embark to travel and see her sick mother, even after the loving protagonist mentions the years when they were so in love and they drove and his car and stopped on the way at motels…presumably to make love.
She refuses and the hint is that she is not interested in that anymore- although she states that she prefers the bus, for it allows her to think- and the relationship appears to be tense, if not on the verge of a breakdown…anticipating a little bit.
In the newspapers, the headline was about a woman that was killed, Helen Kimmel, found near a bus stop and the driver taking Clara to her mother says that they will have a longer journey to the next stop, because the one they regularly use is closed off by the police investigation.
As Mrs. Stackhouse returns, a party is organized at the gorgeous house- we can see part or the principal reason for the success of the architect – she has this small dog – for the under signed, one of the ugliest creatures, but then we have borzois, the antithesis for that breed- in her hands and is very worried that guests would bring snow in the house.
It appears evident already that this woman is difficult, unfriendly, overbearing, distant and very jealous, especially after her spouse pays attention to the splendid Ellie Briess, there would be continuous arguments, accusations and terrible events, caused in large part- if not exclusively- by this mentally deranged wife.
Having said that, it must be emphasized that we are not dealing with a patient, dedicated, selfless, kind, devoted, resilient hero- on the contrary, he is easily challenged, his attention moves to Ellie Briess and if to begin with, his spouse was wrong in accusing him, later on he will have a guilty conscience.
The architect admits that he wishes his wife dead and the woman tries to oblige, by trying to commit suicide- admittedly, not nudged by him- and when she threatens to kill herself is he goes ahead with the divorce that he says he wants, he just says…”go ahead”.
The mother is sick again, she may be dying, and her daughter takes the bus to see her, with Walter following in the car, stopping at the scene where the corpse of Helen Kimmel was found, asking someone about his wife and upon returning home, learning that she never arrived at his mother-in-law.
Clara Stackhouse is found dead, near a bridge close to the bus stop and it is not clear if it was a suicide or a murder, only Detective Laurence Corby-aka Vincent Kartheiser, so remarkable in Mad Men-is convinced that Walter has killed his wife.
There are similarities between the Kimmel and the Stackhouse case, the latter was fascinated by the murder of the wife of the former, has contacted the librarian who is also a suspect of murder, kept a collection of newspaper cuttings referring to the case.
When visiting the house, the detective finds the cuts and discovers one of a series of lies, for upon inquiry, Mr. Stackhouse had denied any knowledge of that killing and pretends that, as a writer, he collects hundreds of articles that he may use for his stories.
The hero has also lied about being present at the bus stop, on the night of the murder, when the public knows that he drove the car- only we do not have further information, the audience does not see what, if he does anything cruel there.
The detail that he had been to see the suspected killer is also hidden, even if Walter is recorded in the files, with the order he had placed and when cornered, Marty Kimmel, tries to blackmail the architect, after initially playing along and claiming in front of the detective that he does not know the hero.
Detective Laurence Corby has – at least in one of the cases- a good intuition, but he uses illegal, not just unorthodox measures, beating Kimmel, pressuring and abusing his power, maintaining that Stackhouse is “digging his own grave and he just has to watch”.
Perhaps more important and with potentially tragic consequences, he pushes Kimmel beyond breaking point- in an understandable and if kept within reasonable limits, commendable effort to unmask the killer.
The detective tries to turn Marty Kimmel against the rich, higher-class architect who has every chance to escape, with his connections, capacity to hire top lawyers, whereas the less off Marty would be punished, in this unfair world.
Will this cause another murder?
Is Walter Stackhouse (almost) innocent and killed for no good reason?