January 25, 2024
by Carla Hay
Directed by Jon Keeyes
Culture Representation: Taking place in Dublin, the crime drama film “Cult Killer” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one Latin person and one black person) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A librarian-turned-private-investigator is hired by the police to assist in investigating the death of a colleague and to find the serial killer who is murdering wealthy people in the area.
Culture Audience: “Cult Killer” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Antonio Banderas and don’t mind watching murder mysteries that have plot holes and ridiculous scenarios.
“Cult Killer” took a potentially intriguing story idea about a vengeful serial killer and ruined it with a messy plot holes, too many flashbacks, and an idiotic showdown scene that sinks this movie into a pile of cinematic garbage. This is the type of movie where most of the acting isn’t terrible, but the film becomes undone by the way it’s written and directed. There are moments of suspense in finding out the motive for the killings, but once that motive is revealed, “Cult Killer” becomes a predictable and mindless mush.
Directed by Jon Keeyes and written by Charles Burnley, “Cult Killer” takes place in Dublin. The movie was filmed on location in Ireland. The locations are some of the few authentic-looking things about “Cult Killer.” The movie’s cinematography gives everything a dark blueish-green tint that makes “Cult Killer” look like an unnecessarily murky-looking film.
“Cult Killer” also relies too heavily on flashbacks, which might or might not confuse viewers. From these flashbacks, viewers can learn that a widower private investigator named Mikeal Tallini (played by Antonio Banderas) befriended and became a sponsor to an alcoholic librarian named Cassie Holt (played by Alice Eve), who was sexually abused by her stepgrandfather when she was 8 to about 18 years old. Cassie secretly recorded the abuse, which was used as evidence to put her abuser in prison for a number of years.
Now in her early 40s, Cassie (who is originally from England) eventually sobered up and began working with Mikeal (who is originally from Spain) as a private investigator. He mentored her by teaching her investigative skills and fight skills. Mikeal has a friendly relationship with a Dublin police sergeant named Rory McMahon (played by Paul Reid), who is investigating the death of a wealthy elderly man named John Abernathy. It soon becomes apparent that people in John’s social circle are being targeted for murder.
Without giving away too much information, it’s enough to say that something happens to Mikeal that puts Cassie on the case to find this killer. John’s social circle includes a wealthy married couple named Dottie Evans (played by Olwen Fouéré) and Edgar Evans (played by Nick Dunning); the Evans couple’s sleazy attorney Victor Harrison (played by Matthew Tompkins); and a fixer/investigator employed by Victor named Wallace (played by Kim DeLonghi), who is hired by Victor to clean up his clients’ scandalous messes.
There’s also a mysterious American in her 20s named Jamie Douglas (played by Shelley Hennig), who singles out Cassie to establish a rapport with her. Most of the investigation revolves around the Evans couple’s mansion where John was killed. After a while, it becomes obvious what the motive of the murders is, even before the motive is actually revealed in the movie.
Because the killer and motive are revealed about halfway through the movie, “Cult Killer” becomes a messy back-and-forth of showing the killer evading capture and showing flashbacks to the platonic working relationship between Cassie and Mikeal. Cassie is the movie’s protagonist, but Eve’s acting in the role is often stiff and dull. Banderas mumbles a lot in this film. Some of the flashbacks become very irritating after a while and don’t really add much meaning to the story. They are essentially “filler” scenes to distract from the flimsy plot that falls apart by the end of the movie.
There’s a pivotal scene toward the end of “Cult Killer” that makes no sense. Viewers who see this scene must ask themselves: “If these very wealthy people are being targeted for murder, what are they doing walking on a street with no security protection, when they have aggressive security people guarding their house?” It’s one of many questions that have no answers in “Cult Killer,” because a substandard crime drama like this one has too many plot holes to be believable.
Saban Films released “Cult Killer” in select U.S. cinemas on January 19, 2024.