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A Slight Case of Murder
William H. Macy, Adam Arkin,
Felicity Huffman, James Cromwell
Originally aired TNT 1997
Warner Home Video
94 minutes

Based on the Donald E. Westlake novel A Travesty, A Slight Case of Murder stars William H. Macy as film critic and murder suspect Terry Thorpe who, in reality, is more or less responsible for the accidental death of one of his mistresses. Thorpe, perhaps having seen too many mystery movies, decides to cover up the event and try to get away with non-murder.

A Slight Case of Murder is a smart, darkly funny, made for TV mystery DVD. Macy is great as the movie critic trying to outsmart the cop (Adam Arkin) and the blackmailing but sensitive private detective (James Cromwell) while having to be resourceful enough to think of everything that can go wrong before it does. Part of the fun here is Thorpe / Macy talks to the viewer throughout the movie ("Don't worry. I know this looks like a scene out of Notorious. I'm not Claude Rains. I'm more like John Cassavetes in Rosemary's Baby.")

Timing is everything in comedy and the timing in this comic mystery is superb. It is impossible to watch A Slight Case of Murder without rewinding a bit from time to time to get the background jokes in things the constantly changing movie posters in Thorpe's apartment or the dialogue in the movie or TV show someone is watching and that seems to be related to what is going on in the movie itself.

This mystery is smartly written and features very original and surprising turns of events including Macy and Arkin at another crime scene, and Thorpe's college lecture on movie mysteries that seems to be related to his own experience or a direct comment on A Slight Case of Murder.

One way or another, being an expert in noir movies seems to help Thorpe a great deal in coping with the many various surprises and twists that keep popping up just when he thinks the coast is clear.

A Slight Case of Murder is a really  smart and fun mystery DVD

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A Slight Case Of Murder
William H. Macy, Adam Arkin, Felicity Huffman
Directed by Steven Schacter
Based on a mystery by Donald E. Westlake
Originally released 1999
Warner Home Video 2006

A Slight Case of  Murder is a fun to watch murder mystery movie DVD with humor, lots of irony and quite a few interesting twists in the storyline. The cast includes many known faces who display a good amount of talent in this film. William H. Macy plays the lead role of Terry Thorpe, and he also co-wrote the script of the movie based on a Donald E. Westlake mystery novel. Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives, Transamerica) plays Kit, his regular girlfriend. Other notables include James Cromwell as a shady private investigator, and Adam Arkin as the lead Police investigator in the death of Laura Penney which initially starts the main plot of the movie.

In this mystery DVD Terry Thorpe is the kind of movie critic that we love to hate. He thinks he knows it all, that he's seen all the best movies and that nothing new can actually be good. He's arrogant and brutal in most of his reviews and doesn't shy away from telling the audience to stay home if he doesn't particularly like a movie. On top of that, he's a womanizer who doesn't have much respect for the women he sleeps with. Let's just say he's no Gentleman and that the viewer doesn't really identify with him early on in the story. He's your typical anti-hero.

When his girlfriend Laura Penney slips on an ice cube and splits her head open in her fall,  after an argument, Terry Thorpe realizes it could look a lot like a murder. If he decides to call the police, he would probably the prime suspect. He's quick to realize that if he tells police that they had been drinking and they had an argument, they probably wouldn't think much of his ice cube story. That's when he realizes no one really knows he's there, that the doorman didn't see Laura and him enter the building and that therefore if he can clean the place up and remove all signs of his presence that night, he just might run free.

Once he's back at his apartment and hears her voice on his answering machine, he ponders "Everything was going so great between us. Why did you have to go and do a header?". A great example of the dark humor in the film, and something that gives us some insight into the character of Thorne. At that point, ,he doesn't really care about her anymore. He's just hoping he can save himself. This is just the beginning of a series of events that make this story compelling.

A Slight Case Of Murder also uses a lot of irony to good effect. At one point, when the police are asking him questions, he tries to stick to his story and use his knowledge of murder mystery movies to get the suspicion away from him. At one point, he turns straight at the camera and tells the viewer: "This is hard! I've a new found respect for actors. I've been known to be, some might say, vicious about them in my criticism." This is the type of situation that gets us to want him to succeed, even if it is sort of twisted to think that way.

When he's in his apartment, we can see movie posters on the walls with such tiltes as "Truman Capote's In Cold Blood", "The Jackal", or "House on Anger Avenue". These seem to show up when violent themes appear in the conversation.

I can't say much more without spoiling some of the funny moments in this mystery DVD, but I must say that there are so many ways you can interpret the acting or the action in the movie that I probably missed a lot of the double-entendres. With that in mind, I must say this movie has a good replay value as you'll be fishing for such gems of irony or dark humor the next times you watch the film.

To conclude, let's just say that this movie reviewer doesn't have quite the lifestyle that Terry Thorpe has in A Slight Case of Murder, but as Detective Stapelli says in the movie: "They rarely get it right in Hollywood." That's OK. Anyway, I probably wouldn't like being in his shoes, which in fact helps to make the movie entertaining.

If you like intelligent mystery movies, I'd recommend you purchase the A Slight Case Of Murder DVD. If you prefer to rent, it's worth a few rentals if you want to be sure you understand all the subtle jokes.