As a true crime buff with more than passing interest, I had to jump on this two-disc Lifetime Channel mini-series about the Green River Killer. OK, the fact that it stars Tom Cavanagh, (Ed) one of my most-hated TV actors, is why I, in reality, let this title slide down to the bottom of the screener pool over several weeks, in much the same dismissive manner as Gary Ridgeway discarded his unfortunate victims. But then the task force in my mind finally gave in, bringing this title home for what turned out to be three hours of engrossing viewing.
Firstly, let me apologize to Cavanagh, whose crippling smarm seems to have been entirely the fault of that horrible show, Ed. Cavanagh commits no crimes in this movie. In fact he's beyond solid here. I never quite bought him as a real homicide detective, but he works his role with steely determination and emotion, so much so that I was able to suspend first my hatred, then my disbelief, until I was rooting for him to finally nail his scumbag prey to the wall.
Ridgeway is of course beyond being a scumbag; he confessed to 71 murders, so it's not hard to want him captured. But since this movie is based on real-life Green River detective David Reichert's book, the focus isn't exactly on Ridgeway anyway - a good thing since there's no possible way Ridgeway could be played as even a remotely sympathetic character. Reichert's story is fascinating enough.
Not being familiar with Reichert's book, however, I don't know how much of the 180 minutes is his, and how much is a Lifetime treatment. The story spans 20 years, from Ridgeway's first killing to his [Spoiler Alert!] eventual capture in 2001, so there is plenty of ground to explore. Possibly appealing to Lifetime's more sensitive viewers, Capture employs a major subplot, the story of one of Ridgeway's potential victims, Helen 'Hel' Remus (Amy Davidson). Hel and her best friend long for a different life outside of the trailer park where their no-good parents live. Sadly, they can't imagine much more than hanging out on the strip, tricking Johns into thinking they are hookers - a tragic plan that eventually leads both of them into one of the notorious killer's pickup trucks. While this aspect of the tale at times gets a little soapy, Davidson's likeable, sincere performance lends her character a sympathetic air that dovetails nicely with Reichert's story arc.
Cavanagh and director Norma Bailey do a fantastic job outlining the schizophrenic nature of Reichert's life and work. As the investigation becomes Reichert's life, we see him struggling manfully to connect with his daughters, only to be constantly torn away. Perhaps as a Lifetime construct, Hel becomes like another daughter to Reichert, tying both stories together practically and emotionally. Though this certainly isn't the only difficult aspect of Reichert's life; he's under a microscope, from the press to the public to the FBI, everyone's a critic, and everyone wants the job done now. If there ever were a character who couldn't win for losing, Reichert is it.
Here's where Capture starts drifting off the road, as far as true crime goes. And this certainly smacks of Lifetime involvement: I was tearing up, with a lump in my throat, by the movie's end. Through our connection to Hel, and her involvement in the second half of the movie, as well as through Cavanagh's raw gentleness, director Bailey and the rest remind us, of the (possibly) 90 women Ridgeway slaughtered, all were humans, with loves, dreams, hopes, and people who missed them. Ridgeway destroyed all that, all along knowing enough that it was wrong to cover his tracks, and The Capture of the Green River Killer reminds us of this.