Tag Archives: murder myster

The Kid Detective

He’s no relation to the Holmes clan, but when he was 13, Abe Applebaum solved the case of the missing fundraiser money. He was such a good little sleuth the townspeople celebrated his successes and rewarded him with his own office. He was the toast of the town, beloved by all, his parents impressed by his initiative, the newspaper chronicling his triumphs, but then he got a case he couldn’t solve. A young girl named Grace went missing and Abe couldn’t find her.

It was an unfair burden to put on a 13 year old kid. The townspeople never said as much, not directly, but young Abe knew what they expected, and he felt the weight of their disappointment when he wasn’t able to crack the only case that really mattered.

Now Abe (Adam Brody) is in his 30s, still working out of the same office the town bequeathed him as a kid detective. He’s occasionally contracted to find missing cats or track down secret admirers, but there isn’t much money in it, and his parents are both embarrassed for him and tired of supporting him. He drinks to numb the self-pity but the hangovers leave him even more despondent. At least until a wildly optimistic high school student hires him to find out who brutally murdered her boyfriend.

I had very few expectations for this film so colour me surprised when I actually quite liked it (what IS the colour of surprise?). It was genuinely funny, it poked fun at the genre and at itself, it felt fresh and unexpected. Brody was well-cast and entirely believable as a man-boy who hasn’t left behind his childhood obsessions. The film struggles tonally, swinging between banter-y, smart-alecky comedy and the sobering facts of an actual murder investigation, which Abe is very much unqualified to conduct. But this guy’s had a cloud hanging over him for the past 20 years and if there’s a chance at a silver lining, he’s going whip out the old deerstalker and oversized magnifying glass and work this case like his life depends on it. And maybe it does.

The Night Clerk

Bart Bromley is an Aspie; he’ll tell you as much in one of his many long-winded, one-sided “conversations.” Bart (Tye Sheridan) lives with his mother. Well, not so much “with” as very much separately, but in her basement. She (Helen Hunt) leaves his meals on the top stair, and he eats them alone, while watching his filmed-in-secret videos, studying and imitating the people he tapes. Wanting to be like them, or at least pretend more convincingly.

Bart is a hotel night clerk, which, not coincidentally, is a great place to hide a bunch of cameras and really get into voyeurism for real. He doesn’t mean to do anything bad, it’s just that observing people is how he learns to live among them. Inevitably (it seems), one night he checks in a woman who is then murdered in her hotel room. Bart is at home, watching it happen. He sprints back to work and arrives just in time for the detective (John Leguizamo) to find him covered in blood, standing over her body. Not a good look, and Bart’s demeanor doesn’t exactly exude innocence. Transferred to another hotel, he checks in Andrea (Ana de Armas), an even more beguiling guest, one who he can actually talk to. So it kinda sucks when it seems she might end up the next victim.

Sheridan and de Armas are actually quite good in this, which is frustrating because the movie itself is…not. Sheridan’s put in the work, and his performance is convincing, even if I’m not thrilled by how his Asperger’s is portrayed. The real problem is that for a thriller – for a murder mystery! – there are no thrills whatsoever. Not even a frisson. And even though there’s a murderer unaccounted for, we don’t really care. There’s no tension, no real worry. The detective is the most chill, low-key cop you’ve ever met, the mother is strangely hands-off, Bart’s boss is surprisingly accommodating, and Andrea is an understanding and receptive romantic interest. Never has being a murder suspect been so easy breezy!

Writer-director┬áMichael Cristofer doesn’t find anything interesting beyond his basic premise, and he fails to make a significant connection with his audience.