Blue Caprice

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Blue Caprice
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

During three terrible weeks in October 2002, Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia were terrorized by the Beltway Snipers, who randomly killed ten innocent people and severely injuring three more. This horrific story is brought to the big screen and is called “Blue Caprice.”

Robin:
This turns out to be a uniquely handled look at the series of murderous shootings that paralyzed Washington D.C. and fascinated and horrified the rest of the country. Instead of recreating the horrible crimes, tyro feature filmmaker Alexandre Moors concentrates on the beginning of the relationship between father-figure John Allen Muhammad (Isaiah Washington) and the teen boy, Lee Boyd Malvo (Tequan Richmond), he takes under his wing. What follows is how their father-son like relationship grew into the pair becoming a killing machine.

“Blue Caprice” is a slowly building film that you think is going to end in a shooting spree by John and Lee. Instead, it is a character study of a man, Muhammad, who is resentful of what life has dealt him – divorce, the loss of his three daughters to their mother’s custody, a restraining order against him and an aimless life after his hitch in the US Army. In a vain attempt to keep his girls, he kidnaps them and takes them to Antigua where he meets the abandoned-by-his-mother Lee. The boy soon becomes the son that John has never had and they move to Muhammad’s friend Ray’s place in Washington State.

During the months they live with Ray (Tim Nelson) and his wife, Jamie (Joey Lauren Adams), John finds out that Lee is a natural shooter with both rifles and pistols. This sparks a germ of an idea for Muhammad – get revenge on those who, in his mind, wronged him. Isaiah Washington gives burning performance as Muhammad and the actor loses himself in his character. Washington is so powerful that his co-star Richmond is overshadowed. The young TV actor makes his co-starring debut but does not give more than a two-dimensioned performance as troubled Lee.

Director Moore does a solid enough job first time off the block with the also first time scribe Ronnie Porto’s inventive, slow burn story. The film goes in directions that are bound to disappoint most viewers who will expect Hollywood-style violence and not the character study that is “Blue Caprice.” I give it a B-.

Laura:
A young Caribbean island boy is left to fend for himself by his mother.  He spies a father with three younger children and follows him.  The man, John Allen Muhammad (Isaiah Washington, "True Crime," TV's 'Grey's Anatomy'), takes the boy under his wing, even bringing him home to Tacoma, Washington, and introducing him as his son.  But what of the other three?  We learn there is a restraining order against John contacting his ex-wife or his children and the man's building rage makes him manipulate this boy who is looking for acceptance into a rifle wielding sniper in the trunk of a "Blue Caprice."

First time feature director Alexandre Moors and Writer Ronnie Porto take an unusual approach to their psychological thriller based on the 2002 Beltway Sniper case which terrorized residents of the Washington D.C. area when ten people were randomly killed over the course of three weeks.  The film is quiet, set to classical music, building slowly as a character study and eschewing the usual serial killer genre's focus on the murders themselves.  The film sparingly uses flashbacks to add context to present action and the editing (by Moors and Gordon Grinberg) is often impressionistic, utilizing cutaways to get us into Lee Boyd Malvo's (Tequan Richmond, TV's 'Everybody Hates Chris') state of mind.

At first, things seem OK when John moves himself and Lee (referred to throughout as 'the kid' until the film's final spoken word) in with girlfriend Angela (Cassandra Freeman, "Inside Man"), but we quickly get a sense of Lee's disorientation when John asks him to make himself scarce so he can have sex.  The young boy wanders around the alien environment of Tacoma, perplexed when he's disconnected after asking an outdoor fast food speaker if they have any cheap burgers.  But Angela throws them out after John lies about having used her moped, the scene hinting at the larger issues which lost John his family.  'I've given you all this,' John demands of Lee as they wander the streets, taking Lee to his old neighborhood where he chillingly says 'people are evil' of the neighbor who testified against him in support of his 'vampire' wife.

Later, running on a forest path, John is seemingly racially harassed by a man in a pickup, but it's all in jest, Ray (Tim Blake Nelson, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") being an old Army buddy on his way to 'let off some steam.'  The men accompany him for some target shooting and when Lee takes on Ray's Bushmaster .223 rifle, he's declared 'a natural.'

It is here that Washington allows us to see the gears begin to turn in John's head.  The two move in with Ray and his wife Jamie (Joey Lauren Adams, "Chasing Amy"), who demands sex from the acquiescent John when Ray's not home.  John begins to lay out his plans to Lee most matter-of-factly in a grocery store, talking about five or six bodies a day for thirty days.  When Lee shoplifts some candy and is caught, John sweet talks the employee into letting him take care of the matter. He takes Lee into the woods and binds him to a tree overnight.  Then he asks Lee to 'do something for him' and Lee takes a gun back to John's old neighborhood, rings a doorbell and shoots a pretty young black girl about his own age point blank when she answers.

The great manipulator tracks down his family in Maryland by posing as a school administrator and, after an armed robbery, buys the titular car, saws out a rifle barrel sized slot in its trunk and the two hit the road.

Their are many other telling moments in the build, which is almost entirely shown from Lee's point of view (tellingly, both John and Lee are out of the picture when Ray becomes alarmed at a cookout when Jamie cannot locate their infant, later found safe and sound with Lee). A somber chorale accompanies their approach into Maryland, where only the first victim is shown being shot.  A montage of the aftermath, set to panicked 911 calls is followed by a flashback to the grocery store, where John's ulterior motive is revealed.    The filmmakers quickly jump through time, leaving us with a scarily evolved Lee in prison refusing to offer any explanations to a defense attorney.

The filmmakers haven't set out to reenact every detail of the crimes (there is no mention of the Tarot cards and notes left for police, nor any specific mention of Jihad) as to portray how one man's impotent rage and one young boy's need for a paternal figure ignited into a horrific crime spree.  "Blue Caprice" is all the more unsettling for its unsensationalistic approach.

B
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