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The femme-fatale has long been the centerpiece of cinematic murder mysteries. Made popular in the 1940s and 50s in film-noir classics, the sexual motivations of dangerous women with power over men and their plans to destroy them have made for some of the most controversial and most-discussed film in cinema, and continue to find audiences. A mainstay on late night cable and direct-to-video in the 90s, indie films have embraced the tropes and steadily churn them out on VOD in modern times. And so now comes If Looks Could Kill, a deliciously pulpy monster-in-blonde-hair soap opera that gleefully clings to the clichés with a super serious face and tongue jammed straight into its cheek.
Faith (Stefanie Estes) is new to the beat, her blue uniform as fresh as her ideas. Joining her best friend Paul (Tomek Kosalka), a detective on the small town force, she celebrates earning her badge at a pub (while on duty) with him and a few others where they interrupt a scuffle between a man and a woman, arresting the guy in the process. The girl is Jessica (Summer Spiro), a wanna-be actress with some serious delusions and a few personal space issues. Seeing Paul as a ticket to fame and wealth, she manipulates him into a relationship and then a wedding, with Faith all the while feeling something isn’t right about the all-too-perfect platinum blonde. Turns out, those are some spot-on feelings.
Written and directed by James Cullen Bressack, If Looks Could Kill is a pretty obvious thriller, one that isn’t trying not to be, instead playing into the theme as if in homage, tossing in as many kitchen sinks it can along the way. Melodramatic to a degree, it dresses up the familiar tropes in some surprisingly-sharp dialogue and a cast of actors who know full-well what it takes to sell it, with Spiro especially leaping into the part with absolute abandon, a 90s cable TV vixen come alive again. From her hip-busting saunter and over-the-shoulder glances and curly yellow tresses dangling in her alluring eyes, she smolders and coos and works her magic on the oblivious men fawning at her feet. No one watching will take it seriously, but that she does, makes it all the more fun. And that’s the key to movies like this, looking beyond the low budget and cheesy plots and watch what the talent is doing because often enough, they are doing very good things.
If Looks Could Kill is a bubble story, where the only people we meet are basically the only people in the world, their lives balancing on what the others are doing. With a lost cat serving as a major conflict and a disgruntled police captain who does nothing but holler actually a thing, this is pretty light stuff, even if the premise is not. Like turning back the clock to a late night cable movie night, this is flashback that is loads of fun if you’re in the right frame of mind.
Movie description: If Looks Could Kill is a thriller about a cop who suspects her best friend's new wife is not who she seems to be.
Director(s): James Cullen Bressack
Actor(s): Stefanie Estes, Summer Spiro, Tomek Kosalka
Genre: Thriller, Crime