Stacy (Dagmara Domiczyk) is a bitch, plain and simple. Schooled in the art of the husband guilt trip, she terrorizes Ward (Donald Faizon) with demands and blame as their new child Ramon celebrates his first birthday. At the party, she hits on Tom (Scott Foley), forcing him to take drastic action to keep her from telling his wife Geena (Amy Acker) of his supposed infidelity. One slip on the birthday cake, and Stacy is down, but the real murder and its cover-up is taken on by the rest of Ward’s friends: David (Patrick Wilson), Ronnie (James Carpinello), and Amanda (Marika Domiczyk). As the couples deal with Stacy’s remains, Ward’s neighbor Bruce (Greg Grunberg) begins to suspect that something is fishy with Ward’s friends, even as the boys plan a golf game with him the day after Stacy’s murder.
This is Director/Writer/Actor Scott Foley’s first feature-length film, and it shows. His technique is not terrific, exposing too much light through windows, blotting out the sky in outdoor shots, and even under-exposing interior shots that need to be dialed up later (read our Video portion of the review for more examples). Unintended lens flare appears on the left side during the desert scene in Act 3, while there are some examples of continuity errors throughout the first act.
In reading more about the extremely short filming schedule – just 12 days, by the way – it seems that Foley’s team was not only hurried, but these pressures eventually mounted upon the film. The good news is that some of the comedy is genuinely funny, with nearly every cast member able to roll with the punches. Everyone here is related to someone else in the film, with Acker and Carpinello married in real life and Wilson is Foley’s brother-in-law. Connections like these explain why the chemistry elevates the script to ‘fairly decent’ status. But it’s that script itself that fails Foley, both as a writer and director: one cannot tell an effective story like this in a mere 81 minutes, and the last 20 minutes sadly makes my point for me. I think no one will be shocked to learn that Ward’s wife dies in this, but it’s the way the team begins to both cover for each other and face the pressures of getting away with a murder that makes no sense. Moreover, the story suddenly ends, with the problem of Stacy’s disappearance covered up and Ward happy, while the guys play golf, engage in Quicky Coitus, and generally engage in some women bashing.
There’s such a disparity here between reality and black comedy that one finds too many errors to enjoy it. Grunberg plays perhaps the most oblivious officer in the state, never wondering where Stacy disappears to before Ward actually calls it in. The police themselves never investigate the matter beyond one 45-second scene, where Grunberg seems to support Ward’s story with its simply terrible plot device. This sort of check-the-box writing never gives us time to enjoy a potentially humorous investigation while the couples try to cover it up. But throughout the film, there seems to be a suggestion that Stacy was screwing around behind Ward’s back, which is never realized in the final cut. Not that it would have mattered, but the potential of learning how Bruce joins in the cover-up would have been hilarious.
WIFE doesn’t exactly treat women very well, either reducing them down to bitches, or sex objects to be taken after the murder goes down. Acker rises above this to some degree, her charm established in PERSON OF INTEREST, while Wilson tries to keep the team together with funny reactions and a mostly ignorant stance about the legality of murder. Trust me, this isn’t meant to be a stinging criticism about America’s morals, as it seems Foley did have a great idea at its origin. But the story doesn’t go much further, reducing Stacy to a corpse everyone wants to see dead (including the audience) and leaving Foley’s acting troupe with not enough runtime to full react to the event.
No woman’s group is going to tear this one down – because frankly few people will ever know it exists – but critics were pretty harsh with it when it hit very limited release, and for good reason. Personally, I liked the chemistry of the leads, but there’s too many story beats that are jettisoned that 20 minutes might have helped. Add some of the underlying comedy which is genuinely funny, and this could have been a major theatrical release. Frankly, the trailer shows the best parts, so watch that to save yourself the pain of seeing it fully played out. In the end, WIFE is a real mess and a total letdown.
Well Go USA’s release of LET’S KILL WARD’S WIFE is visually all over the place, furthered by Actor/Director Scott Foley’s frankly horrible lighting throughout. Inside shots are dialed way up to the point that table lights bleed all over the surface, while outdoor scenes are shot extremely bright, to the point of blotting out the entire sky. There’s aliasing as scenes fade to black, something I haven’t seen from a BD release in awhile. Well Go USA’s release does its best to circumvent these problems, but there’s only so much they can do – see an example above. What we do get is not a screw-up, but not a winner either. Stubble on faces can be clearly seen, while strands of hair are visible in daylight but not so much in indoor scenes. Clothing is detailed enough, but it seems Foley’s technique interfered with a solid transfer. There’s very few if any night scenes, alleviating us from having to tear down another aspect; but when shadows and blacks arrive as a by-product of what’s happening, they do fairly well. All in all, the video is the best thing about the release, and that’s not saying much.
Although LET’S KILL WARD’S WIFE states that the release is offered in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, there is so little sound coming from the speakers (especially the surrounds) that audiences will wonder if their home theater has failed. To be sure I hadn’t fallen to a similar victim, I reset my system and even played other titles that I knew featured the rear speakers. Back to WIFE and the issue repeated. To say the rest of WIFE’s track is ‘quiet’ is understating how little is offered, but it shouldn’t be assumed that no sound is happening in the rears. Instead, what we get is barely-perceptible sounds like desert wind near the end of the film and other environmentals that you have to stand in front of the speaker to hear. But other issues arise long before one realizes that Houston has a problem. First, one must turn up the track to even hear speaking – which is delivered through the center channel – to the point that when music arrives one must dial it back, what I refer to in many HDN reviews at The Remote Game. Music and some sound effects are strictly in the front speakers, but those seem to be louder than the dialogue. The LFE, asleep for most of the track, does come alive somewhat during the rock tracks by Tenacious D’s John Spiker. But again, none of this arrives in the rears…ever…making it difficult to appreciate any part of this experience. In short, it’s an utter failure for Well Go USA.
- Outtakes (3:24)
- Trailer (3:56): Frankly, watch this and forget the film. It really has all the best parts, and what initially got me excited – stupid me. Here, the surround speakers are alive with the orchestral music, which never gets this loud during the movie itself.
Our evaluation copy arrived without a slipcase or interior artwork, and at the time of this posting we were unaware of any special editions or packaging. It’s a bare minimum effort to get this film onto shelves.
I had hoped that Well Go USA’s LET’S KILL WARD’S WIFE would be a hilarious black comedy about starting anew while the murderers were blissfully unaware of their crime. When that dream died fairly early, I turned to its technical virtues but got even less. This is the worst release of 2015 so far, a failure not only in terms of story but in its release to the home market. I’m not sure I could even recommend it as a rental, unless it appears in your Netflix queue. Is Well Go USA regressing, or is this just another misstep for a company that gets ridiculously close to acceptance, only to shoot itself in the foot time and time again? I have high hopes for them, but this release only strengthens my concerns.
LET’S KILL WARD’S WIFE is Not Rated and has a runtime of 81 minutes.