By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: Who’s killing the tenants?
Female tenants living in a New York City high-rise building are turning-up dead in brutal fashion. Lieutenant Alex Dinardo (Mike Connors) and his younger, female partner Kate (Anne Archer) are convinced that the culprit is Vincent (Ian McShane) who works as the overnight watchmen at the apartment building and since all the crimes happen during his shift he quickly becomes suspect number one. Though getting enough evidence in order to arrest him becomes a delicate matter. Alex then decides to asks Kate to move-in to the building as a new tenant and thus keep tabs on what Vincent is doing and hopefully lure him into a situation where he’ll incriminate himself, but Kate soon finds herself in over-her-head as the killer is on-top of what’s going on and he soon bates her into a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse where Alex and the other policemen are not able to help her.
The film was an attempt at creating an American version of an Italian giallo complete with gory murders and an intricate mystery where you don’t know who the real killer is until the final twist ending. It’s also the only film to date to be directed by actor Tony Lo Bianco. Severely straddled during production as it was shot in 1982, but due to the production studio that financed the project going bankrupt it was never released until 3 years later where it was given little fanfare and came and went with few people seeing it.
The biggest problem with it is that it plays-up McShane’s role too much. Granted he’s a gifted actor who’s best known today for his work in the TV-series ‘Deadwood’, but by overemphasizing his character it makes it seem right from the start that he’s the culprit and thus making the investigation uninteresting because you feel it’s just a matter of time before he’s found out and thus little mystery, or intrigue. Granted there are a couple of other suspects, but they seem thrown-in simply as red herrings and aren’t seen much. The story would’ve had better tension had the suspects shared equal screen time and a more balance of clues making it seem like any one of them could’ve done it and thus some genuine interest at getting at what the truth is versus having it seem like it’s all spelled-out from the start. If anything Maureen O’Sullivan, who plays McShane’s near comatose mother whom he takes care of, is far more captivating, despite the fact that she doesn’t speak any line of dialogue and trapped in a wheelchair, then anything McShane himself does.
The unusual pairing of a 60-something male cop alongside a female one that appears to be only around 30 should’ve been what the film focused on as I found their contrasting personalities and different ways they approached their police work to be something that could’ve been played-off of more. Unfortunately the film taps into this just slightly and then quickly moves on and thus misses the opportunity for what could’ve lead to captivating confrontations and debates. Connor does seem a bit too old for this kind of thing and seeing him trying to chase down a young athletic man who was only 20 came-off as almost laughable and I was surprised he didn’t just fall over from a heart attack, or exhaustion before he ever managed to get near the guy. Having him lose a fight to the younger guy and have to depend on his partner to bail him out of it was realistic, so it gets props there, but the way he goes about his police work, which includes physically beating-up on suspects, is highly unethical and should’ve gotten him demoted, or fired.
I had issues with Archer’s character as well. This comes when she agrees to move into the apartment and work undercover, but seems woefully unprepared for it. She manages to carry a gun with her when she goes down to the basement of the building to do laundry, but then when she gets back to her place she does a goofy aerobics workout where she gets caught off-guard, but wouldn’t a seasoned cop know to carry a weapon on her at all times especially when she’s intentionally making herself a target to the killer? Also, what kind of person walks into their apartment and then doesn’t turn around and immediately lock the door once they’re inside? If you want to argue that this was intentional (I don’t think it was) because she wanted to lure the killer inside, so as to apprehend him, then fine, but she should then make damn sure she was a gun in-hand, pointed at him, when he does, which in this case she didn’t.
You must likely won’t be able to guess who the true killer is, but it’s not worth sitting through. The script doesn’t offer any clues, or hints either, so even an alert viewer won’t figure it out, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good mystery because it really isn’t. The story is sloppily put together without much imagination, or character development. Unlike a true giallo the murders are quick and without much blood, so if you’re a gorehound this thing won’t suffice. The concept had potential, but the execution is half-hearted.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: September 28, 1984
Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes
Director: Tony Lo Bianco
Studio: International Film Marketing
Available: Blu-ray (Import), DVD-R