Dot.Kill (October 29/05)
In his 40-year-career, John Irvin has directed everything from critically art films (Turtle Diary, A Month by the Lake) to cheesy action flicks (Raw Deal, Next of Kin) to wartime epics (Hamburger Hill, When Trumpets Fade). He's evidently turned his attention to the straight-to-video cop thriller, and the result is a film that's just as mediocre and unmemorable an effort as one might expect from the genre.
This is despite an astoundingly intense performance from Armand Assante, who barks and rages his way through the entire film. The actor stars as Charlie Daines, a grizzled cop who's been trying to kick a morphine addiction for an undetermined amount of time (his doctor has long since stopped prescribing him the drug, forcing Daines to turn to a former collar to get his fix). Though Daines is, not surprisingly, a complete mess, he's forced to pull himself together after a psychopath begins murdering people and broadcasting their deaths on the internet (vis-à-vis a ridiculously complex website that could only exist in a movie).
Though Assante is just about the only worthwhile aspect of Dot.Kill, he's saddled with a character that's not terribly likeable; Daines is an exceedingly gruff and misanthropic figure, to the extent that it's impossible not to wonder why he didn't blow his brains out long ago. And while the movie spends a lot of time with him, Daines remains curiously underdeveloped; aside from a few throwaway tidbits, we learn virtually nothing about what makes him tick (that Assante mumbles his way through the majority of his scenes certainly doesn't help matters).
Andrew Charas and Robert Malkani's screenplay emphasizes hackneyed plot developments and stereotypically broad characterizations (there's an angry Captain, for crying out loud), all within the context of an extraordinarily routine storyline. The killer's identity is laughably obvious from the second he/she steps onto the screen, which effectively kills any suspense regarding the film's outcome (although, to be fair, the movie does end on an unusually bleak note). Irvin's attempts to infuse the film with a somber, Fincheresque sense of style fall flat, and the inclusion of an operatic soundtrack borders on parody.
Aside from Assante's thoroughly broad performance (which is admittedly quite entertaining, if only to see just how over-the-top the actor goes), there's really nothing within Dot.Kill to separate it from the rest of the dreck at your local video store.