Monday, May 16, 2016

Trust No One, a.k.a. Corrupt (Odyssey Media, Zeb Filmworks, Lifetime, 2015, released May 15, 2016)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2016 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Alas, after I Didn’t Kill My Sister — a good movie with a dumb title — Lifetime ran Trust No One, also an Odyssey Media production and also a film that began with a different name (Corrupt), but a far inferior production, a dull story about the attempts of Pittsburgh district attorney Frank Murphy (the hot African-American actor Andrew Moodie — playing a character named Murphy? He must be one of those “Black Irish” we keep hearing about) to get the goods on a Mafia-connected money launderer named Vargano (Douglas Kidd). It’s not actually specified by screenwriters Curtis James Crawford (who also directed) and Cathy and Wendy McKernan that he’s part of the Mafia, but he has an Italian-sounding name, he’s played by a swarthy actor who looks like Leonardo Di Caprio’s big brother, and he’s escaped prosecution by means of a large, muscular, mostly bald sandy-haired hit man, Taylor (Layton Morrison), who manages through almost supernatural powers to identify and knock off any potential witness against Vargano before the D.A. can actually get that person to court to testify against him. The leading character of the movie is actually Kate MacIntyre (Nicole de Boer), a forensic accountant who when she isn’t teaching at a local college (there’s a scene of her giving a lecture to her students in which she explains mark-to-market accounting) works under the D.A. trying to get the goods on Vargano by looking through all his accounting records to see if she can find anomalies that would indicate he’s using his “legitimate” businesses as a front for money laundering.

Vargano, meanwhile, is behaving more like a James Bond villain than a classical movie Mafioso; virtually the only times we actually see him are when he’s lounging on his yacht with two anonymous bimbos in tow to service some of his other needs. (The fact that he seems to be able to do this year-round in Pittsburgh, of all places, itself requires a certain suspension of disbelief.) Murphy manages to get Kate to leave her job as a professor and join his task force even though the last time she worked for him she nearly got killed and the witness she had developed was killed. At first they work out of Murphy’s own offices until a Black hit man (Dennis LaFond), a confederate of Taylor’s, disguises himself as a janitor and sets a bomb in the storage room holding the files Murphy and his staff have assembled about Vargano and his questionable — and, they hope, provably illegal — business activities. Kate, the obviously intended victim, is uninjured because she went out to replenish the group’s coffee supply as they worked into the night, but her assistant Vivian (Allison Brennan) is injured and ends up in the hospital. So Murphy orders his crew to leave the office and move into a safe house where they can be protected from Vargano’s thugs, and one of the three police officers assigned to Kate’s detail, Carl (Jon MacLaren), bails out on the ground that he’s too concerned about his family to want to work a job that might get himself killed. The two cops that end up with Kate in the safe house are hunky young Detective Daniel Leaton (Scott Gibson) and older, stouter, taller and more avuncular, but still attractive, Greg Nealand (Peter Michael Dillon), who worms out of Kate the information that she’s single and then declares his love for her. As the film progresses (in the manner of a disease), Murphy becomes aware that there is a “mole” in his operation who’s leaking Vargano and his organization all the information about his investigation, including the identities of his potential witnesses (so Vargano can have Taylor and his Black confederate kill them) and the businesses he owns that Murphy and Kate are looking at — and we become aware that one of the two cops hiding out with Kate in the safe house, where they’ve set a burglar alarm so she literally can’t leave, is the mole.

Things heat up when Kate figures out how to get out of the safe house (she opens a window, it sets the alarm, and she scopes Leaton out as he resets it, thereby getting the code) and meets another member of Murphy’s office staff, Jessica Hall (Helene Alexis-Seymour), to obtain a file on the Benton corporation, which Vargano ostensibly “bought,” albeit at an inflated price. Only the file reveals that Vargano didn’t have to buy the Benton corporation because he already owned it — it was incorporated with Vargano’s mother as a front — and the “purchase price” was really money he was laundering for the Mob. Then Jessica is run down by a driver on Vargano’s payroll and killed (and it seems a bit racist to have the white Vivian merely injured by the thugs, and the Black Jessica killed by them — it also seemed a bit stupid that, since they killed her because she got the Benton file to Kate, they didn’t go back and fetch her laptop, which ended up on the ground near her body and probably had a copy on its hard drive; but then again no one from the police or the D.A.’s office seems to think of looking on her laptop for the file either). At first we’re carefully led to believe the mole is Leaton, not only because Crawford and the McKernans drop hints (like showing him using his cell phone to call a mysterious party — for some reason they’ve barred Kate from having a cell phone or an Internet connection at the safe house but both he and Nealand use their cell phones all the time; in a real safe-house situation, wouldn’t they have set up a secure landline so they and Kate could call Murphy’s office but nowhere else, instead of risking having their operation compromised by a traceable cell-phone signal?) but because he’s the hottest-looking guy in the movie and part of the Lifetime iconography is that the hottest-looking guy in a Lifetime movie is almost always a black-hearted villain; but I was also bracing myself for a reversal in which Nealand would turn out to be the mole, and that duly happened when Taylor and the Black guy found out where the safe house was and hatched with Nealand (via cell phone!) a plot whereby Nealand would drug Leaton so Taylor and his Black confederate could kidnap Kate; she gets into an SUV with Nealand and suddenly recognizes the Black guy as the “janitor” she saw the night before, and realizes that she’s being kidnapped by Vargano’s hit men and Nealand is the mole.

There’s a final confrontation in which the baddies threaten to torture Kate unless she gives them the password to the file so they can erase it and Vargano can get off scot-free again, but ultimately Leaton recovers consciousness, gives chase, and while his scrawny little frame (which we’ve already seen topless coming out of a shower, with only a towel around his waist — yum) is no match for Taylor’s bulk and it looks like Taylor will literally make mincemeat out of him in a one-on-one confrontation, ultimately Kate comes up with the gun and shoots down Taylor just as he’s about to kill Leaton, and the other cops arrive, take the wounded Taylor and the Black guy into custody, and the D.A. has the evidence he needs to indict Vargano before the deadline by which he’d either have to come up with something against him or drop all charges. Tell No One isn’t a bad movie; it’s just dull, and while Vargano and Taylor are convincing figures of menace (enough to make me wish the writers had emphasized the bad guys more and the comparatively boring good guys less), overall it’s simply not a very interesting movie. It’s full of sporadic twitches of action that seem to be there merely because it occurred to Crawford and the McKernans that white-collar crime is boring to watch, and the efforts to catch white-collar criminals are also boring — there are way too many scenes of Kate and others poring over manila folders containing spreadsheets and other financial documents, and like all movies about white-collar crime this requires endless explanations about just what all those numbers mean and why what the bad guys are doing is illegal. There are a few atmospheric shots of Pittsburgh by night — in fact Crawford likes to take his cameras overhead and give views of the city’s night lights just as a relief from the boredom of his and the McKernans’ plot — and an overall sense that Trust No One might actually have been a better movie with more compelling direction and writing, and more of a focus on the villains than the heroes. More soft-core porn scenes would have helped; I would have liked to see Nealand get to have sex with Kate during their long joint incarceration in that safe house, and afterwards Kate get into a tizzy when she finds out she’s pregnant with the child of the corrupt cop who tried to kill her!