Most direct-to-video crime thrillers wrangle plot elements to camouflage the killer's identity. THE WRONG WOMAN adopts a subtler approach (reminiscent of television's "Columbo"), in which the murderess sinks a hook into a guilty-looking suspect and lets the patsy get further entangled every time she squirms to prove her innocence. Hot-headed Melanie (Nancy...read more
Most direct-to-video crime thrillers wrangle plot elements to camouflage the killer's identity. THE WRONG WOMAN adopts a subtler approach (reminiscent of television's "Columbo"), in which the murderess sinks a hook into a guilty-looking suspect and lets the patsy get further entangled
every time she squirms to prove her innocence.
Hot-headed Melanie (Nancy McKeon) already has a police record for a minor assault on a cheating beau. Reclaiming her singlehood and her back-burnered career, Melanie moves to a new city, where her fresh start is compromised by the attentiveness of her handsome boss, Tom (Stephen Shellen).
Protecting her interests, Tom's wife, Christine (Michelle Scarabelli), hires a private investigator, Slide (Lyman Ward), who takes incriminating photos and hides them in a trick belt buckle.
Persuaded by Tom to sup at a company-owned apartment, Melanie can't sanction an affair, refuses an expensive gift watch, and exits in full view of the private investigator. Unbeknownst to Melanie, Tom entertains a second, unexpected guest, Margaret (Chelsea Field), Melanie's immediate supervisor.
Tom planned to fire Margaret because of her dangerous cost-cutting practices on his new buildings. A barracuda when it comes to career advancement, Margaret fatally brains her employer and schemes to gain control of the company while currying widow Christine's favor.
Slide has captured Margaret's misdeed on film, and he tries to convince her to buy his silence. Instead, Margaret kills him, searches in vain for the photos, and plants evidence to implicate Melanie.
Melanie turns amateur sleuth to clear her name and sets a trap to outwit Margaret, but her plan backfires. Meanwhile, Christine is getting too meddlesome for Margaret's taste, and the villainess murders her, too. With this second crime pinned on her, Melanie is apprehended at the site where
Margaret buried Slide. Only the discovery of the original murder photos in the late Slide's concealed buckle finally clear Melanie of wrongdoing.
As circumstantial evidence thrillers go, THE WRONG WOMAN is above the norm for several reasons. First, the intricacies surrounding Melanie's mad dash to clean up the conspiracy against her are ingeniously developed. Second, the script adheres to its female-dominated universe where male characters
are hapless fall guys. The women here are catalytic forces; interwoven are relationships between gullible Christine and ambitious Margaret, guilty cat Margaret and duped mouse Melanie, and control freak Margaret and the cowering employees she terrorizes daily.
Judged on the basis of this competently executed melodrama, McKeon has come a long way from her tomboy days on the television sitcom "The Facts of Life." She displays enough star power to push THE WRONG WOMAN on a rollercoaster of coincidence and thrills. Equally battery-powered is Field, who
makes Margaret's vulnerability to unemployment both pitiable and chilling. (Violence, adult situations.)
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