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A Kind Of Murder Is Not The Best Kind Of Patricia Highsmith Adaptation But It Will Do

This noir murder thriller set in 1960s New York intrigues with its tale of twisted fates and bleak fatalism


A Kind of Murder (PG13: some coarse language)

Starring Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel, Eddie Marsan Directed by Andy Goddard

A Kind of Murder has Patrick Wilson as rich, successful, unhappily married architect Walter Stackhouse, whose fantasies of ridding his jealous unstable wife (Jessica Biel) feeds his obsession with a bookstore owner (Eddie Marsan) suspected of brutally murdering his own missus.

The retro noir thriller set in 1960s New York intertwines the two men’s doom when their spouses, in quick succession, turn up dead at the same highway diner and a pesky detective (Vincent Kartheiser) comes sniffing.  

The Blunderer is the movie’s 1954 source novel by celebrated crime author Patricia Highsmith. The title can apply also to British television director Andy Goddard for his anaemic treatment of Highsmith’s signature themes — transference of guilt, dual identities, class resentment, deceit and desire — which Alfred Hitchcock made into a classic with his 1951 Strangers on a Train adaptation.

Not that there isn’t intrigue, anyway. The period styling is strong with cigarette smoke and sharp tailoring. Wilson is ideal casting as the handsome anti-hero. Ditto Eddie Marsan as the mousy bookseller, hiding shifty eyes behind thick glasses.

Jessica Biel is Stackhouse’s wife. Behold that beehive!

And the sultry Haley Bennett, she is Stackhouse’s nightclub singer lover. No one is innocent in a Highsmith story. This one plays out with grim fatalism. 3/5

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