Richard Dreyfuss stars in this murder mystery/thriller that also marked the film debut of the always attractive Liv Tyler (In my eyes anyway). Bruce Beresford served as the films director. His subject material this time out is a long way from the days of Driving Miss Daisy.
Sheriff J.T. Walsh looks up retired child psychologist Dreyfuss to help at a murder scene where two adults have been butchered by a knife. Also in the home is a young autistic boy who is bloodied and holding the murder weapon. The victims are the child’s parents. While conducting a thorough search of the home the police also find a young woman unconscious in a closet who has been beaten and sustained cuts as well. It’s the boys older sister Liv Tyler.
Dreyfuss is still a practicing analyst but hasn’t actively treated children for years due to a suicide long ago. This plot ploy is added to give his character some personal demons I guess that come to a head with his wife and the little used in a thankless role here, Linda Hamilton. With Walsh pushing and sham doctor John Lithgow the only alternative Dreyfuss attempts to unlock the secrets of the young boys mind piecing the mystery together.
The finger of justice is going to be pointed around the cast at various times in this glossy looking film. It’s hard not to think that our sham doctor John Lithgow just might be the lunatic with the knife but that’s more from the actor’s reputation at playing one heck of an on screen psycho. Alas like Hamilton he’s rather underused and serves only as a doctor of differing opinions in treating the child.
As we round the corner to the finale there’s a very creepy scene involving Dreyfuss and our killer played out on a frozen lake that adds some thrills and quite literally “chills” as the mystery unfolds.
Yes I pegged the killer early on but despite that there are answers that need to come to the surface in order to understand the reasoning for the two brutally slain victims. When we get to the summation it’s not a very likable topic.
Aside from Walsh and our little boy played by Ben Faulkner the remaining cast members are all fairly well known. At the time Walsh seemed to be showing up in everything and was surely known as one of those faces people knew yet couldn’t name. His life was cut short at 54 as the result of a heart attack denying us of a lengthy career ahead.
Tyler gets plenty of screen time but the film revolves around Dreyfuss and his struggles to put the pieces of the little boys mind together to solve the puzzle. For me Richard Dreyfuss has always been watchable yet I can’t say I’ve ever watched a film strictly because he’s in it unlike many other actors that I’ll catch in anything that they may appear. Maybe it’s that laugh or even when in a murder mystery like this he still mugs occasionally for the camera.
For a glossy thriller with a few twists though just a little too cute at times one could do worse then tuning into this nineties style mystery.
This movie is one of my Guilty Pleasures — almost despite Dreyfuss, who’s not a favorite actor of mine for reasons including those you mention (he’s actually pretty good here). I just find the whole setup and the storytelling quite fascinating; it seems somehow to have a bit more integrity in its storytelling than most movies of its kind.
Oh, and Linda Hamilton, John Lithgow — even if they don’t have much to do, it’s difficult to go wrong if you have those two in a movie.
the whole case is almost solved in a dreamlike daze. Right about both Lithgow and Hamilton.