A Kind of Murder is the latest in a long line of Patricia Highsmith adaptations. It’s based on one of her earliest novels The Blunderer which has been renamed for the purpose, to this even more generic title. The genericness of the title is unsurprisingly reflected in the film which has some virtues not many though.
Patrick Wilson who has always have a likeable but slightly creepy screen presence stars as Walter Stackhouse who is a pulp writing architect. He wants to leave his wife and soon becomes obsessed with an unsolved murder case of another man’s wife who he suspects is the killer. Of course there is another younger woman involved and soon a detective is on the heels of both of the men.
The film’s director is Andy Goddard is a Brit who has mainly worked in TV except for the Dylan Thomas film Set Fire to the Stars. It has that VOD bordering on TV visual style that you expect but it has flourishes of noir lighting especially during the all to brief climax. It also looks like an extended episode of Mad Men for long periods with it’s early 1960 setting which is only increased by the presence of Vincent Kartheiser as the detective. The film’s cinematography has normally worked in TV but did work with Goddard on Set Fire to the Stars hence why he was hired.
The rest of the cast is pretty good Wilson is effective and Biel as his wife gives her best performance. Biel’s career in recent years has taken a massive nosedive into VOD work which is a shame because she has an old-school Hollywood glamour to her which is especially effective in neo-noir. Haley Bennett pulls off the young bohemian singer which intrigues the bored and repressed straight-laced Stackhouse.
However despite a strong cast and decent murder mystery it’s never able to escape just the pure generic feel of the whole film. You can’t help but wonder what it could’ve been if a more experienced and visual director had been given the same material. The book was originally adapted as a French film in the ’60s with the title Enough Rope but it seems near impossible to find today.