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Rosary Murders, The
I expected a lot more from a film labeled a "neo-noir thriller" starring Donald Sutherland and Charles Durning and with a screenplay by Elmore Leonard, who wrote "Get Shorty," "Rum Punch" and "Out of Sight," among many others. Fred Walton directs and the cast is solid, but The Rosary Murders fails to generate suspense or much dramatic intrigue. The main conflict involves Sutherland's priest and the vow that prevents him from alerting police when a serial killer comes to confessional. The movie is sluggish and boring, with death scenes that fail to register and cardboard characters. The filmmakers were given access to a number of real churches, which adds to the film's authenticity, but The Rosary Murders winds us as tone-deaf as its protagonists.
An unseen killer is terrorizing Detroit, stalking Catholic churches and killing priests and nuns. The killer's calling card is the Rosary, which is left on each victim's body. Father Robert Koesler (Sutherland) is a priest at Holy Redeemer Church, and is shocked when a young nun and friend is brutally murdered. He begins his own investigation when local law enforcement fails to catch the murderer, while a local reporter, Pat Lennon (Belinda Bauer), takes an interest in the case and the Father. His world is upended when a man comes to confessional and reveals that he is responsible for the crimes. Sworn to silence by his vow to God, Father Robert knows he must stop the killer without revealing his identity to anyone.
The plot sounds like it would offer pulpy thrills, but it mostly bores. The story is adapted from William X. Kienzle's novel, with Leonard providing screenwriting support. The Rosary Murders never settles on a tone. Is it a bloody thriller or a drama about secrets within the Catholic Church? Walton does not seem to know, and his film suffers accordingly. Most of the murders happen off screen, with the camera cutting away just as the killer pounces. That, along with the melodramatic subplots and stilted dialogue, makes the film feel like something pulled straight from the Lifetime network. The idea that Father Robert would have to break his vows to God and the church to catch the killer sets up a juicy moral dilemma, but the movie never commits to that path. Instead, it is content to be a light drama with thriller elements.
Sutherland is fine here, but his character's relationship with reporter Pat is questionable and feels out of place. Is she trying to tempt him into breaking another vow, wiggling into a good story, or genuinely hoping to help catch the killer? The Rosary Murders never makes that clear. The ultimate reveal is not particularly surprising, and I was disappointed in the film's turgid pace and lackadaisical drama. Walton never builds up the tension, so there is nothing to look forward to. The Rosary Murders goes through the motions for 105 minutes before puttering out with a whimper. Skip this one.
The 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is fine. The film certainly reveals its age, and the print is slightly dingy, with minor print damage and debris. Fine-object detail and texture are decent, and the film retains a natural layer of grain. Colors are muted but appropriately saturated. Black levels are good, but I did notice moderate black crush. Kino has avoided digital noise reduction and edge enhancement.
The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio stereo mix is decent, with appropriate dialogue reproduction. The effects and score feel a bit perfunctory, and occasionally overpower the dialogue. I noticed no major distortion or hiss. Light ambient effects waft to the surrounds.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
The only extra is the Theatrical Trailer (2:18/HD). The artwork is two-sided, with the inside artwork being the more appealing of the two choices.
This Donald Sutherland-starring film is a dull thriller set against the backdrop of the Catholic Church. Someone is killing priests and nuns, and Sutherland's Father Robert cannot reveal the identity of the man who confesses to the crimes without breaking his vow to the church. The film lacks suspense and never settles on a consistent tone. Skip It.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.