It's hard to pull off a good dark comedy. The Coen Brothers are masters of the genre, and then there are some rare examples here and there. Otherwise, you get a sea of insufferable and atonal messes that think "edgy" and "funny" are the same word. 90s Felicity heartthrob Scott Foley's feature directorial debut looks like a low-rent version of Peter Berg's debut Very bad Things, which was awful and despicable in its own way, so you can tell how low the bar is with this tasteless effort.
It's not the premise that sucks. Any dark comedy story idea, no matter how controversial or sickening, can be turned into gold depending on the execution. Fargo, the greatest dark comedy ever made and the closest example to a perfect film in my opinion, is full of horrific acts perpetrated by the scummiest characters ever written. But the Coens' vision, as well as the expert writing that allows us to identify with even the dumbest characters in their film turns Fargo into a classic.
As we can see in Let's Kill Ward's Wife, simply inserting useless sociopaths into a seemingly benign white upper-middle-class suburban setting doesn't automatically result in hilarity. The film's premise is insultingly simple, and so is the screenplay structure, but we'll get to that later. Three best friends (James Carpinello, Scott Foley, Patrick Wilson) can't stand the wife of their other best friend Ward (Donald Faison). Ward ended up marrying his wife after knocking her up and now he can't stand the controlling, shrill and destructive witch either.
While Ward lacks the spine to divorce his wife, his friends begin fantasizing about her death. One day, their dreams come true as one of them loses his temper and strangles her. The rest of the bare bones screenplay focuses entirely on the gang's attempt at getting rid of the wife's body without a sub-plot or any tangible character development to see anywhere. Foley tries desperately to squeeze comedy out of clumsily juxtaposing sweet moments with harsh and violent ones.
While discussing how to chop up the wife's body, Wilson's character realizes that he's never met Ward's infant son, which leads into a supposedly heartwarming sequence where everyone watches the baby sleep. This moment, which was supposed give the film some ironic hilarity, ends up being a disgusting experience because of the non-chalant and obviously desperate way it was executed.
We're expected to laugh at the simplistic difference in tone between this scene and the body chopping sequence that came before it, but all I could think of was that these characters with whom we were supposed to identify with left an innocent baby without a mother. In a world where divorce exists, especially around the LA setting of this film, perhaps there were better options?
The ending is a lazy cop-out filled with sit-com conveniences that involves Ward's nosy police officer neighbor Bruce (Greg Grunberg), who watches the gang leave the house without their bloodied clothes on and immediately assumes they were part of a gangbang. Yep, this is the level of sophistication we're dealing with folks.
Foley's film looks as flat, depthless and lifeless as possible. I wouldn't be surprised if I found out the whole thing was shot on an iPhone set on a tripod and edited with an iMovie filter that would make the project look "film-like". It's annoyingly evenly lit and looks like a sophisticated home video where Foley and his friends goofed around for a weekend. That being said, I guess the 1080p presentation stays loyal to the source.
We get two DTS-HD options, 5.1 and 2.0. There isn't much of a difference between them since the 5.1 track sticks almost exclusively to the front channels. This is a very dialogue heavy project with minimal sound effects. The happy-go-lucky score becomes very ear-grating after a while so perhaps watching it on mute is the better idea.
We get a 3-minute pointless Outtakes video and a Trailer.
Let's Kill Ward's Wife is a complete waste of time even for die-hard fans of subversive dark comedy. Stick to Coen Brothers instead. Or, if you have to, re-watch Very Bad Things.