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Let's Kill Ward's Wife

D: Scott Foley / 82m

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Scott Foley, Donald Faison, James Carpinello, Greg Grunberg, Dagmara Domińczyk, Amy Acker, Marika Domińczyk, Nicolette Sheridan

Ward (Faison) has three close friends: David (Wilson), Tom (Foley), and Ronnie (Carpinello), but since his marriage to Stacey (Dagmara Domińczyk) and the birth of their son, his chances of spending quality time with them has almost reached zero. The reason? Stacey has him browbeaten and henpecked and bullied and reduced to asking permission to see his friends (which he doesn’t get). When a planned Father’s Day trip to the golf course sees four end up as three, his friends start to muse on the idea of killing Stacey and ridding their lives of her forever. But while Tom and Ronnie dismiss the idea other than in principle, screenwriter David begins researching how to kill someone and get away with it.

At a party held at Ward’s house, the friends, along with Tom’s wife, Geena (Acker), and David’s ex-wife, Amanda (Marika Domińczyk), are all together when Tom receives a phone call from actress Robin Peters (Sheridan), whom he has recently interviewed for the magazine he and Ward work for. She flirts with him and he arranges to meet her. But Stacey overhears the conversation and threatens to tell Geena about it. In a fit of pent-up anger, Tom mashes her face into a cake. She comes up for air but slips on a piece of the cake and crashes to the floor, unconscious. She stirs, and Tom panics and strangles her.

He manages to keep the body away from prying eyes until everyone but his friends and Geena and Amanda have gone. He tells them what’s happened, and after the initial shock, they all decide to cover up Stacey’s murder, and then to dispose of the body. Ward is stunned but not unhappy, and goes along with the plan. When it comes to deciding what to do with the body, David reveals several ways in which they could get rid of it, and they decide to dismember it and bury the portions in various different locations. But there is a potential fly in the ointment: Ward’s nosy cop neighbour, Bruce (Grunberg), who senses something is up with Ward, and who keeps an eye on his and his friends’ comings and goings in the run up to the disposing of Stacey’s body.

But when it comes to actually dumping her body, Ronnie has a crisis of conscience that threatens the plan, and Ward is followed by an increasingly suspicious Bruce…

Let's Kill Ward's Wife - scene

There’s a moment in Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife that may well be too much for some viewers, and may prompt them to give the rest of the movie a miss, believing that there are some things – even in a black comedy – that shouldn’t be filmed. The moment in question involves Ward’s full bladder and his dead wife, and it’s the moment in the movie where any connection the audience might have had with Ward and his friends flies out of the window and heads south for the rest of eternity. Up til now, the easy complicity and the joking around have been awkwardly amusing, but here the script – by Foley – aims for the blackest of black comedy and misses by several country miles (there’s another moment later on, with a line of dialogue, that tries the same thing, but it also falls flat). These two moments are indicative of the script’s shortcomings – of which there are many – and why some movies shot on a low budget and in a short period of time… should remain unmade.

It’s true that there’s ambition here, but it’s almost choke-slammed into submission before the movie even begins. At their son’s Christening, Stacey berates Ward for his behaviour in front of all their guests, but he’s done nothing wrong; and while it’s a scene that’s played for maximum awfulness – and to show just how much of a shrew Stacey can be – it’s also a scene that feels too overwrought to be credible. And Stacey remains a shrew right up until she dies, with no attempt to show a different side to her personality, and with an almost blink-and-you’ll-miss-it explanation as to her bullying behaviour. It’s a one-note characterisation and harms the movie in ways that Foley hasn’t considered because he’s more interested in showing the four friends and their camaraderie. But they’re just a bunch of guys who can’t relate to women, and for whom casual misogyny is pretty much a way of life. Ronnie is a would-be Lothario, while Tom is planning to cheat on his wife because it’s easier than telling her she doesn’t turn him on anymore and trying to fix things. And apparent commitment-phone David can devise a plan to dismember and dispose of a dead body but he can’t devise a way in which he can win back his ex-wife. (And if you think these “issues” won’t be resolved by the movie’s end, then you need to think again.)

As the movie stumbles from one unconvincing set up to another – David proves to be a bit of a criminal mastermind, the friends all strip down to their underwear in order to get rid of their clothes… but before they leave Ward’s house, Ronnie fails to take a shovel with him to his burial site and has to use a golf club to dig the hole, Bruce proves to be the worst cop in the world – it soon becomes clear that writer/director Foley hasn’t got a grip on either the material or his cast’s performances. Wilson comes off best by making David gleefully amoral when it matters, and he wears a Cheshire Cat grin throughout. Faison plays Ward as either dazed or confused or panicky, and Carpinello adopts a breezy Brooklynite persona for Ronnie that is too close to parody for comfort. Of the rest of the cast, only Acker makes any kind of impression, but then only briefly before she’s required to turn into an unlikely sexpot. As for Foley, well, let’s just say this isn’t his finest hour.

With too much in the way of fixed camerawork going on, Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife isn’t the most visually arresting of movies, but Foley and DoP Eduardo Barraza do at least keep things moving within the frame, and their reliance on low angle shots occasionally pays off. There’s a score by John Spiker that rarely deviates from being twee and stiffly supportive of the action, and the movie’s brief running time proves to be an unexpected blessing.

Rating: 3/10 – considering the potential of its subject matter, Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife is a ridiculous, self-consciously careless attempt at making a whip-smart blacker-than-black comedy; with no one to root for, or care about, it’s a movie that tries too hard and as a result, fails to deliver.