Sunday 16 May 2021

Movie Review: Devil You Know (2013)

A mystery drama about a simmering conflict between a mother-daughter pair of actresses, Devil You Know is hysterically botched. 

Glamorous movie actress Kathryn Vale (Lena Olin) has not appeared on film for 10 years, ever since her husband Maximilian was shot dead. His murderer was never found and rumours swirled that Kathryn was somehow involved. Now her daughter Zoe Hughes (Rosamund Pike) is embarking on a movie acting career, while Kathryn publishes an autobiography and launches a comeback.

Her current husband is screenwriter Jake Kelly (Dean Winters), and he is carrying on an affair with Zoe. Meanwhile Kathryn's personal assistant Edie (Molly Price) resents Kathryn's attempted return to the spotlight. When threatening letters accusing Kathryn of murder start to arrive, her comeback plans are threatened and sordid secrets from the past are revealed.

Filmed in 2005, shelved, then unleashed on an unsuspecting world in 2013, Devil You Know was probably only released because Jennifer Lawrence achieved fame in Winter's Bone (2010), The Hunger Games (2012) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012). Here she appears in brief flashback snippets as the young version of Rosamund Pike's character, and has no spoken lines.

The film is a misguided attempt at a neo-noir thriller vaguely inspired by the Johnny Stompanato homicide. Written by Alex Michaelides and directed by James Oakley, Devil You Know has the plastic production values and wooden dialogue delivery of a daytime soap opera. The choppy editing, some out-of-focus frames, and a running time of just 76 minutes suggest an incomplete project, but padded with bewildering shots fetishizing women's legs.

The available budget was spent on wardrobe to dress Olin and Pike in 1940s-inspired outfits. Otherwise the set designs and dialogue exchanges emit the whiff of locations rented by the hour and one-take expediency. Despite Olin and Pike wrestling as best as they can with the material, the characters never come to life, and the plot disintegrates into a stagy and cheap Agatha Christie-like small collection of suspects staring at each other and wondering what to do next.

Devil You Know is best left unknown.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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