Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Cult Killer: Antonio Banderas Dies Early

Mikael Tallini is a detective with a Scandinavian sounding first-name and an Italian sounding surname, who is working in Ireland and is portrayed by a Spanish actor. He will also die early, but he frequently returns in flashbacks when his protégé draws on his sage advice in Jon Keeyes’s Cult Killer, which opens Friday in theaters.

Tallini regularly told his apprentice, employee, and AA sponsee Cassie Holt that their work as private detectives would almost always be boring. This case will be the exception. Local copper Rory McMahon hires Tallini to investigate a politically sensitive murder, hoping he can circumvent the obstacles erected by the powerful suspects. Shortly thereafter, Tallini is fatally stabbed by a mystery woman.

Of course, Holt inherits the case along with the business. Technically, she solves the murder almost immediately, but that only complicates matters. The killer is the unstable Jamie Douglas, an adult survivor of a nasty sex slavery club. They really are not a “cult” per se. In fact, the well-healed members are quite snobby. Obviously, that means they have clout, which is why Douglas has taken the law into her own hands.

Ordinarily, Holt would be rather ticked off at Douglas. Yet, as an abuse survivor herself, she somewhat emphasizes with her. Regardless, the sex ring, led by the vicious old Evans couple, is absolutely awful, so they need to be taken down.

As you might imagine, Holt’s alliance with Douglas presents a credibility challenge screenwriter Charles Burnley never manages to surmount. In fact, the nice master-and-student chemistry Antonio Banderas and Alice Eve share in flashbacks only accentuates the issue. They are quite good together and Eve also has some nice dramatic moments of her own, as Holt’s struggles with her own demons.

Unfortunately, Olwen Fouere, in her second film of the week, is laughably cartoonish, in the wrong way, as the wickedly perverse Dottie Evans. She is much better (and better served by)
Sunrise—and also check her out in Sea Fever. Although Shelley Hennig’s portrayal of Douglas is convincingly damaged, the film could have used even more scenery chewing from her character.

Ironically, since he dies at the beginning, this happens to be one of the better Antonio Banderas movies of the week. His star-power is put to good use, but it is still not enough to recommend
Cult Killer when it opens this Friday (1/19) in Newark at the CityPlex 12.