Though this suspense film's mystery is transparent, and its protagonists are oblivious, it still is mildly diverting. Produced by the socially conscious team of Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford (AND THE BAND PLAYED ON), the movie sandwiches in an earnest message about the callousness of
Big Business. But the do-gooder story content is at odds with the manufacture of thrills.
In 1965, a pharmaceutical company secretary, Helen Maris (Dey Young), is murdered for attempting to reveal the criminal negligence of her Unidek Company bosses, Russell Vanyk (Rip Torn), Martin Prescott (Josef Sommer), and Wilson Hartwick (Eddie Jones).
Thirty years later, Helen's evidence surfaces at a building site where down-on-his-luck construction worker Nick Parma (Nick Chinlund) works. Nick's wife, Judy (Mare Winningham), hatches a blackmail plot against the Unidek triumvirate. But, at an arranged info-for-money exchange, a bag lady gets
blown up by a bomb meant for Judy.
Tricked out of their hard evidence, Nick and Judy decide that the only way they can stay alive is to prove Helen's conspiracy theory about Unidek withholding reports about the side effects of their chemical fertilizer, Compound K. Working from Helen's old steno tapes and questioning Helen's
brother, George Maris (Earl Theroux), the Parmas underestimate the ruthlessness of Vanyk. The villain drowns vacillating partner Hartwick and hires a hit man, who murders Helen's brother George before tracking down Nick and Judy.
Determined to rock Vanyk's world for destroying so many innocent lives with harmful Compound K, Nick meets with Vanyk and Prescott. From a distance, Judy tapes their admissions of guilt, but the assassin pursues her through the woods. After a brain-damaged guard, Bradley (Todd Louiso), one of the
fertilizer's victims, rescues Judy by shooting her assailant, the Parmas wait for the police to arrest a defeated Prescott and an unrepentant Vanyk for their crimes against the community.
The basic problem with LETTER TO MY KILLER is its failure to reconcile its social-problem dramatic concerns with its identity as an amateur detective potboiler. Fortunately, the screenplay convincingly etches the Parmas' change of motive as they're redeemed by a Ralph Nader-ish zeal to bait the
One would expect this thriller to juice up its voltage as the Parmas lose their early rounds against the big boys. Instead, the movie works better as a soap opera in which the married couple's mettle is tested not by hysterical blindness, amnesia, or infidelity, but by a pharmaceutical company's
corrupt game plan; the Parmas' crusade saves their marriage from dissension caused by money worries. Intrigued by the Parmas' scattered efforts at justice, the audience is even more moved as they react to the human ramifications of Unidek's betrayal.
LETTER TO MY KILLER is AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE adapted not by Arthur Miller, but by Barbara Taylor Bradford. (Violence, profanity, adult situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1996
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Though this suspense film's mystery is transparent, and its protagonists are oblivious, it still is mildly diverting. Produced by the socially conscious team of Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford (AND THE BAND PLAYED ON), the movie sandwiches in an earnest… (more)