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On Blu-ray/DVD/VOD: THE POSTCARD KILLINGS (2020) and LAST MOMENT OF CLARITY (2020)

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THE POSTCARD KILLINGS
(UK/US/Germany - 2020)

Based on the 2010 novel The Postcard Killers, a collaboration between America's James Patterson® and Sweden's Liza Marklund, THE POSTCARD KILLINGS manages to be both a post-SE7EN serial killer thriller and the kind of wintry Scandinavian mystery that came in the wake of Stieg Larsson's best-selling phenomenon The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And for about 45 minutes, it's a terrific, expertly-crafted nailbiter that would've been a huge hit a decade and a half ago. But after an unexpected, gasp-inducing bait-and-switch that you won't see coming, the film loses the thread, stumbling and bumbling along with contrivances, confusion, and sloppy editing on its way to a dumb and unsatisfying conclusion, almost as if another team of filmmakers came in to take charge of the second half. NYC homicide detective Jacob Kanon (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is in London to claim the bodies of his murdered daughter and son-in-law, who were just married and on their honeymoon when they became the victims of a deranged killer who "posed" them in an embrace, with their eyes pinned open, an arm (not belonging to either of the them) stuffed in the son-in-law's mouth, and his daughter's left hand missing, among other disturbing details. A postcard was sent to a London journalist and Kanon learns from the unhelpful inspector in charge (Steven Mackintosh) that a similar M.O.--newlywed couple murdered and posed, dismembered body parts from another killing, a taunting postcard sent to a journalist--was recently found in an almost identical case in Madrid. Stonewalled over his repeated attempts to take an active role in the investigation, an irate Kanon heads to Berlin after another newlywed murder happens there and gets more collaborative cooperation from rumpled Inspector Bublitz (Joachim Krol). Then he ends up in Stockholm after American expat journalist Dessie Lombard (Cush Jumbo of THE GOOD WIFE and THE GOOD FIGHT) gets a postcard before police discover a nearly identical crime scene, at which Kanon's daughter's knit hat was placed in the hands of one of the victims.





There's a parallel storyline involving...well, let's not get into that. The victims are staged like art exhibits currently in museums in the city where each killing occurs, and they're done so in such horrifically macabre ways that bring to mind an episode of HANNIBAL if directed by a young Dario Argento. Morgan does a fine balancing act of being overcome with grief and seething with entitled American rage when one European cop after another won't let him have his way and allow him to take over the investigation. Of course, he ends up doing that anyway, and  he and Jumbo establish a nice rapport and make a solid detective team. But they're let down by an abrupt shift in direction after that whopper of a mid-film reveal, and things just start to get silly, like a typical episode of a CBS police procedural or any one of these elaborate serial killer potboilers where the murderers have way too much time on their hands. Making his first English-language film since 2009's neglected and barely-released TRIAGE with Colin Farrell and Christopher Lee in a great late-career performance that almost nobody's seen, director Danis Tanovic (a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar-winner for 2001's NO MAN'S LAND) just falls asleep on the job in the second half, introducing an incarcerated Wall Street asshole (Denis O'Hare) and having no idea what to do with Famke Janssen as Kanon's ex-wife, who seems to be off in a completely different movie most of the time. And the end lands with a complete thud, made even more frustrating by the door being left open for a sequel. It's enough to make you wonder if something went wrong in post-production or if it was just too many cooks in the kitchen, with Marklund one of five credited screenwriters and Morgan among the small army of 28 producers. (Unrated, 104 mins)



LAST MOMENT OF CLARITY
(UK - 2020)


A ludicrous thriller being simultaneously dumped on VOD and Blu-ray after two years on the shelf, LAST MOMENT OF CLARITY is admirably resourceful in the way it manages to pass Norfolk, VA off as NYC, Los Angeles, and Paris (!), but that kind of ingenuity doesn't extend to its asinine plot. Sam (blank void Zach Avery) has been living a solitary life in Paris (played by Norfolk's Freemason District) in the three years since the death of his girlfriend Georgia (READY OR NOT's Samara Weaving), who perished in a NYC gas leak explosion caused by a stray bullet when gunmen entered their apartment and started shooting. He managed to escape and flee overseas and now works at a cafe owned by Scottish expat Gilles (Brian Cox, who must've happened to be in Norfolk that day). Gilles doesn't know Sam's troubled past, but admonishes him to forget about whatever happened and move on. But Sam can't, especially after he goes to see a movie and one of its stars looks exactly like Georgia, only with blonde hair. He Googles the actress, Lauren Creek (also Weaving) and finds that she's a model, tabloid fixture and rising movie star in the States. Convinced Lauren is Georgia, Sam packs his bags and heads to L.A. He attempts to crash her latest movie premiere but is recognized by Kat (MR. ROBOT's Carly Chaikin), a gofer for Lauren's PR firm who happens to be the long-forgotten little sister of Sam's best friend in high school. They catch up, but Kat isn't buying his story, especially after she tries to arrange an introduction at the post-premiere party and Lauren doesn't recognize Sam. Undeterred, Sam persists in trying to prove Lauren is Georgia, even following her and her fiance Vince (Hal Ozsan) to a bar and selecting Willie Nelson's version of "Georgia On My Mind" on the jukebox to get her attention.





That's a bit too on the nose, but nothing about LAST MOMENT OF CLARITY, is subtle or smooth, especially the eventual involvement of some Eastern European gangsters led by cancer-stricken Ivan Denisovki (Udo Kier), and more background info that Sam keeps from Kat until it's convenient for the plot. With its rampant stupidity and a surprising amount of nudity from Weaving, LAST MOMENT OF CLARITY often feels enough like a deliberate throwback to an early '90s DTV erotic thriller that you almost expect it to open with the Prism Entertainment logo. But the sibling writing/directing team of Colin and James Krisel can't stop tripping over their own feet, telegraphing twists way too early, and never explaining why someone on the run and hiding from a ruthless crime organization would decide that becoming a model and movie star, and being in the tabloids after altering nothing about their appearance beyond switching from brunette to blonde and removing two tiny tattoos would be the ideal way to lay low. Weaving is uncharacteristically dull, though at least Kier gets to shout "What do you know about death?" giving you brief hope that he'll resurrect his signature line from 1973's FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN. Otherwise, LAST MOMENT OF CLARITY gets its biggest boost from Chaikin, who turns in a terrific performance in an otherwise lousy movie. She imbues her character with a sense of humor that's snarky without being affected, and does a great job of conveying the seen-it-all jadedness of L.A. without turning the character into a cartoon. She does a lot with just a look and works wonders with a throwaway line (when Sam asks why she's helping him, Kat replies "Because you rejected me and I'm just sick enough to be attracted to that"), and ends up becoming the film's most compelling character. The Krisels try to develop some intriguing parallels between Lauren and Kat, but not enough to do justice to Chaikin's efforts. It's also perfectly fitting that Chaikin gets the line that perfectly sums everything up, at one point screaming "This is so fucking dumb!"(R, 90 mins)


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