Saturday, April 2, 2011

An Excused Absence: "Absence of the Good" (1999)

Stephen Baldwin stars in another serial killer film that arrives on the scene about ten years too late.

Detective Caleb (Stephen Baldwin) and wife Mary (Shawn Huff) are still grieving after the accidental shooting death of their six year old son. Mary drowns her sorrow in pills, while emotionless Caleb drowns himself in work. A serial killer is on the loose in Salt Lake City, and Caleb and partner Glenn (Rob Knepper) are under pressure from their stereotypical blowhard commander (Allen Garfield) to solve the case.

Caleb takes the case personally, since the main suspect was an abused child now visiting all his old childhood homes and murdering everyone living there. Dr. Lyons (Tyne Daly) tries to help Caleb before the case, and his nightmares about his son, send him over the edge.

The cast here is very good, from Daly's tough and tender psychiatrist to Huff's sad portrayal of a mourning mother. Knepper is always a villain in everything else I have seen him in, having him be a good guy is a welcome change. I was initially put off by Baldwin's stiff portrayal. I realize his character is keeping his emotions bottled up, but I started to find his monotone monotonous. Once in a while, I thought he would turn that emotional corner, but then he would drop back into rigid and unfeeling again.

John Flynn's direction is very good for a small film, helped immensely by Ric Waite's beautiful photography. Like most serial killer films, you might have this one figured out if you are paying close enough attention. I did like the investigative process this time around, although the "flawed cop working on his toughest case" story has been done.
 
"Absence of the Good" was too easy a target (with that title) if it was bad. It is merely okay, no more, no less, and no surprises.  (* * *) out of five stars.