Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sometimes the Good Kill (Incendo Media/Montreal Casting, 2017)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2017 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I watched a Lifetime movie called Sometimes the Good Kill, a 2017 production from Incendo Media (reflecting the “incendiary” character of their name, their logo shows the “o” at the end bursting into flame) that’s a murder mystery set in a convent. When the Mother Superior of the order is found dead outside the grounds, hit by a wooden beam and a rock that were detritus from a reconstruction project on the convent’s building, the convent somehow has the clout to keep the police from investigating and instead the nuns take charge of the investigation themselves. The order has the right to elect its own Mother Superior and the two leading candidates are relatively young and easygoing Joy (Allison Hossack) and the tougher, more traditional Cypriana (Nora McLellan), though the most traditional nun in the place, Sister Nora (Krista Bridges), doesn’t like either of the candidates and wish someone more hard-line would run — particularly someone who would restore the dress code that would require the nuns to go about in full habits all the time instead of being able to doff the hat while on convent grounds and to dress in normal clothes when they’re doing their charitable work outside, which consists mostly of feeding and reaching out to homeless people. At least two other people end up mysteriously dead, including groundskeeper Conor (Marshall Williams), the only male on the premises and one who’s attractive enough it seems likely he might tempt one of the sisters to break their vows and have sex with him. Sister Talia (Susie Abromeit, a quite capable actress and also a good-looking and charismatic woman I’d like to see again in something in which she isn’t playing a nun) takes it upon herself to investigate the killings and find out “whodunit.” 

The problem with Sometimes the Good Kill is it’s simply not a very interesting story — as I’ve joked in the past about other, similarly lame mysteries, it’s less a whodunit than a whocareswhodunit — and except for the ones who are given some characteristic by writer Ian Carpenter that sets them apart from the rest (like Sister Mai — pronounced “My” — who’s played by Lisa Truong and who’s convinced the other nuns are prejudiced against her because she’s Asian), the nuns tend to blend together into a mass of official religiosity. About the only interesting thing writer Carpenter has to tell us about Sister Talia is that before she entered the convent she was in the military (this being Lifetime it’s unclear just where this is taking place — no doubt it was filmed in Canada, especially with “Montreal Casting” being credited as one of the production companies on, but it’s not certain whether Canada is “playing” itself this time or filling in for the U.S. as usual in Lifetime films) and she cultivated certain skills, including being able to kill people, that come in handy when she finally solves the murder and finds at least three of the sisters are involved. Oona (Yulia Petrauskas) actually committed at least one of the crimes, but one of the other sisters got her to do it by speaking to her and passing herself off as a voice inside Oona’s head — and among the guilty sisters are a raven-haired woman who had studied to be a doctor and an older sister who had broken her own vows, got pregnant and raised the resulting daughter to be a nun in the order herself. There’s also a red herring in the form of Father Joseph Kinsella (Stuart Hughes), who wanted to sell the convent to a developer so it could be turned into condos and wanted to move the order downtown where he could keep an eye on these errant nuns.

One thing Sometimes the Good Kill does right is dramatize how the Roman Catholic Church, especially the parts of it depicted here, really does regard itself as a law of its own; as the real-life priests who covered up for child molesters in the ranks did when they worked overtime to keep secular law enforcement from finding out what was going on, the priest and nuns in this movie somehow manage to conceal three murders from the local cops (we never even see any of the local cops!) and take it upon themselves to solve the crime and mete out whatever punishment is needed. Aside from that, though, Sometimes the Good Kill is a bore, wasting some good Gothic effects from director Philippe Gagnon on a story that not only makes very little sense but doesn’t do much to keep our attention because, aside from Talia and Mai, the characters simply aren’t that interesting. James Agee said in his review of Black Narcissus — a much more highly regarded movie but also about the kinky thrill of seeing a bunch of nuns deal with both human and (potentially) supernatural skullduggery in an old and presumably haunted convent — “Barring perhaps one in any hundred who willingly practice it, I think celibacy is of itself faintly obscene; so I admire still less the dramatic exploitation of celibacy as an opportunity for titillation in the best of taste.” And if that’s true of Black Narcissus — a film that was at least trying for artistic excellence (and which has an undeserved reputation as a masterpiece because in the joint résumé of producers-directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger it happened to fall between two films that are masterpieces, A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes) — it’s even more true about a schlocky Lifetime opus whose denouement turns on a nun getting pregnant two decades earlier and getting her daughter into the same order!