"What's the difference between wishing somebody dead and actually doing it?" — That is the question "A Kind of Murder" attempts to answer.
Directed by Andy Goddard, this adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York this week, follows Walter Stackhouse, an architect by day, crime writer by night and an all around swell guy. Walter's wife, Clara (Jessica Biel), however, is a hateful real estate saleswoman who gets irrationally jealous and suicidally bi-polar. Walter spends much of his time wishing she was not in the picture until she turns up dead and he must face his guilty conscious and the suspicions of everyone around him.
— Tribeca (@Tribeca) April 18, 2016
"A Kind of Murder" has all the aesthetic trappings of an Alfred Hitchcock classic — the 1950s time period, the vibrant colors, the sweeping score and, of course, the suspense. But what really makes the film Hitchcockian is not what you see, but what you feel — the deep sense of dread, the psychological terror. The "wrongly accused" trope was one of Hitchcock's favorites and it is played well here.
Wilson, fresh off of FX's "Fargo" Season 2, delivers, making the audience feel the frustration of the world's suspicions closing in on him — a la "Gone Girl." He acts like a guilty man, because he feels like a guilty man and Goddard dares to ask if Walter deserves to be punished for his thought-crimes. Even from the movie's first few scenes, it is clear he will be helpless in the wake of his wife's inevitable death.
"A Kind of Murder" is bolstered by strong, old fashioned performances from Vincent Kartheiser ("Mad Men") as an overzealous detective sure of Walter's guilt and Eddie Marsan ("Ray Donovan") as a ruthless murderer whom Walter is accused of trying to copy. That pair's chess match is underway long before the death of Walter's wife. He just gets caught in the middle.
The climax is not nearly as clever as at its set-up, but "A Kind of Murder" is a smart thriller, one that digs deep into the viewer's mind with difficult questions about guilt and morality. Hitchcock would be proud.