Sunday, February 17, 2019

WFA ’19: Winter Ridge

This serial murderer could be called the “Slippery Slope” Killer. The unknown perp has been bumping off victims in the late stages of dementia, who probably wouldn’t mind going. Ralph Northam would probably call that keeping them comfortable. The case hits close to home for the detective investigating the case in Dom Lenoir’s Winter Ridge, which screens during this year’s Winter Film Awards.

Ryan Barnes stayed to file just one more report on the night of his anniversary, leaving his wife to drive home alone. Tragically, she was rendered comatose in an accident with Mike Evans, the town drunk and all-around belligerent jerk. Of course, Barnes had just kicked him loose a few hours before, because he was feeling generous.

Barnes keeps working to numb the guilt and pain, drawing a case involving suspicious heart-attacks suffered by age-addled victims. It seems they were all part of a support group led by Dr. Joanne Hill, whose members included the very same Evans. He was there because of his ailing granddaughter’s grim prognosis, but was not very popular with the other members.

That all sounds too convenient, doesn’t it? Frankly, Ridge could have used a few more characters, because there just aren’t any other suspects left by the time we get to the big supposed reveal. Indeed, Ridge is a rather workmanlike affair that might have been okay as an episode of a British procedural, but is hard pressed to justify its feature film status.

The one thing it really has going for it is an ensemble of first-rate British character actors. Perhaps the most recognizable face in Ridge is Alan Ford (whom we all surely know from Cockneys vs. Zombies) as Dale Jacobs, an artist and member of Hill’s group, who could very well be the next victim. Hannah Waddingham (who similarly elevated The Gatehouse) chews the scenery quite nicely as Dr. Hill, while Michael McKell barks orders and issues stern warnings like a champ as John Faulkner, Barnes’ commanding officer.

If you had to take the thumbnail above and sketch out a full narrative in less than thirty minutes, there is a good chance you would produce an outline that parallels Ross Owen Williams’ screenplay, beat for beat. That makes it a bit of a disappointment, but Anglophiles will still enjoy watching pros like Ford and McKell do their thing. Better suited for streaming, Winter Ridge screens this afternoon (2/17) at Cinema Village, as part of the 2019 Winter Film Awards.