THE POSTCARD KILLINGS movie poster |©2020 RLJE Films

THE POSTCARD KILLINGS movie poster |©2020 RLJE Films

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Famke Janssen, Cush Jumbo, Joachim Krol, Steven Mackintosh, Naomi Battrick, Ruairi O’Connor, Denis O’Hare, Eva Rose
Writers: Andrew Stern and Ellen Brown Furman, based on the screenplay by Liza Marklund & Tove Alsterdal and Tena Stivicic, based on the book THE POSTCARD KILLERS by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
Director: Danis Tanovic
Distributor: RLJE Films
Release Date: March 13, 2020

THE POSTCARD KILLINGS touches on a few interesting ideas. However, this adaptation of a best-selling novel by James Patterson and Liza Marklund, written for the screen by Andrew Stern and Ellen Brown Furman, based on the screenplay by Liza Marklund & Tove Alsterdal and Tena Stivicic, and directed by Danis Tanovic, doesn’t quite know what it wants to be.

On the one hand, THE POSTCARD KILLINGS has the kind of baroque horror imagery we associate with Clive Barker, or maybe an episode of HANNIBAL. It has a detective story structure, a provocative social angle that gets totally buried by the end, and some stabs at character depth that don’t flesh things out as much as seems intended.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as NYPD Detective Jacob Kanon, who has come to London, England, for a tragic reason. His beloved daughter and her new husband have been brutally murdered on their honeymoon. The bodies have been found posed, with blood drained and parts missing. Understandably, Jacob wants to find the culprit, and is none too patient with local authorities who don’t want him on the case, even though he is a fellow law officer.

A postcard with a cryptic message was sent to a local journalist. Then Jacob learns that there may have been a similar double murder of a newlywed couple in Madrid, prefaced by another postcard. Jacob’s investigation leads him to Germany, where he finally encounters a sympathetic police inspector (Joachim Krol). Then the clues take Jacob to Sweden, where he teams up with Dessie Leonard (Cush Jumbo), an American reporter working in Stockholm.

Morgan is moving in his parental pain, Jumbo is likable as Dessie, Krol makes us believe in his character’s compassion, and Naomi Hattrick and Ruairi O’Connor are good as a young couple. Denis O’Hare has only a couple of scenes, but is properly intimidating as rich man who factors into the proceedings.

THE POSTCARD KILLINGS, appropriate to the first part of its title, takes us on a scenic tour of northern Europe, with Norway standing in for Finland. It looks fine, and the acting is strong, but the movie feels weirdly superficial. We aren’t allowed to understand clues and figure things out along with the characters, and the surprises aren’t big enough to justify keeping us in the dark. Some information is oddly easy to access, while other pieces of the puzzle that seem like they ought to come up on an Internet search require in-person sleuthing.

THE POSTCARD KILLINGS movie poster |©2020 RLJE Films

THE POSTCARD KILLINGS movie poster |©2020 RLJE Films

There are a couple of twists that liven things up, even if they aren’t entirely unexpected. The art aspect is intriguing, and the psychological aspect works as far as it goes, even if it winds up answering more questions than it answers. Despite the grotesque body stagings, the onscreen action is fairly minimal. We see Jacob grieve, and we see him make deductions, but the two aspects of the character aren’t integrated in the writing; there’s only so much Morgan can do without more support from the script. Finally, there’s a weird cap that makes us wonder exactly what the filmmakers were worried we’d think if they didn’t make the addition.

In the end, THE POSTCARD KILLINGS is competent, but it’s never compelling. We’re curious, but not fascinated, and also not entirely convinced.

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