Two Thrillers from TVA
I Witness (October 1/07)
I Witness casts Jeff Daniels as James Rhodes, a Human Rights Investigator who finds himself caught up in a Mexican murder mystery after 27 villagers are found dead near the American border. It's pretty dry stuff, admittedly, but director Rowdy Herrington does a nice job of punctuating the proceedings with surprisingly exciting bits of action (including a gripping chase sequence through Tijuana's back streets). Daniels' superb performance certainly goes a long way towards keeping things interesting, though James Spader is undoubtedly at his scene-stealing best here as a smarmy government agent. Ultimately, however, there's just no denying that the less-than-enthralling material - coupled with a storyline that's sporadically a little too convoluted for its own good - prevents I Witness from becoming anything more than a mildly entertaining time-waster (which is a shame, really, given the effectiveness of Herrington's last collaboration with Spader - the forgotten 2001 thriller The Stickup).
Whisper (October 2/07)
Whisper has the misfortune of arriving on the tail-end of the recent demonic-kid craze, following the lackluster Omen remake and George Ratliff's creepy Joshua. Familiarity proves to be the least of Whisper's problems, however, as the movie - saddled with an egregiously slow pace and an almost overwhelming vibe of claustrophobia - remains curiously uninvolving for the duration of its running time (the performances are effective, at least). Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies star as Max and Roxanne, a financially-strapped couple who agree to participate in the kidnapping of a wealthy young boy (Blake Woodruff's David) - though it's not long before the pair discover that little David isn't quite as innocent as he appears (particularly as he starts playing his captors against each other and saying things like "you couldn't kill me; you don't have it in you!") It's an intriguing premise that's increasingly squandered as the movie progresses, with the initial vibe of creepiness slowly-but-surely replaced by one of overt silliness (the overblown finale certainly doesn't help matters). And while Holloway is essentially playing a variation on his Lost character - ie the thug-with-a-heart-of-gold type - the actor proves to be a charismatic and engaging leading man (Joel Edgerton and Michael Rooker offer strong support as Max and Roxanne's doomed cohorts). The bottom line is that although Whisper generally remains a cut above the majority of its straight-to-video brethren (ie it's not terrible, exactly), it's ultimately not difficult to see why the movie is forgoing a theatrical release.