True Crime (1996 DTV)

vt Dangerous Kiss; vt True Detective
US / 94 minutes / color with some bw / Jonathan Furie, Trimark Dir & Scr: Pat Verducci Pr: Jonathan Furie, Andrew Hersh Cine: Chris Squires Cast: Kevin Dillon, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Bowen, Jennifer Savidge, Joshua Schaefer, Tara Subkoff, Marla Sokoloff, Bill Nunn, Ann Devaney, David Packer, Alissa Dowdy, Aimee Brooks, Ashley Crow.

True Crime 1996 - 0 opener

Embarrassingly often, direct-to-video movies compare rather favorably to their big-screen counterparts. Far more frequently, they have a sort of hokey small-budget TV-movie-style charm that transcends all other considerations. And then there are DTVs like True Crime.

Catholic highschool kid Mary Giordano (Silverstone) is obsessed with magazines like True Crime. (Do such mags still exist? I remember reading them as a schoolboy in the 1960s, but I was under the impression they’d vanished long ago.) Kathleen (Dowdy), the younger sister of one of Mary’s classmates, Margie Donlevy (Brooks), has been grotesquely murdered—raped and stabbed and worse—and Mary decides to investigate, despite the unmitigated opposition of her dead cop father’s old buddy Detective Jerry Guinn (Nunn). Soon Mary spots a creep hanging around her local swimming pool, Tony Campbell (Dillon); she follows him and clicks some photos of him. A while later, meeting him in the local minimart, she’s unnerved enough to spray him with her canister of MACE.

True Crime 1996 - 1 Mary on the prowl at the minimart

Mary (Alicia Silverstone) on the prowl at the minimart.

At which point she’s hauled in front of Detective Guinn, who explains that Tony is a police cadet. The two having been reconciled, Tony explains that he too is desperate to solve the killing of Kathleen—a killing both he and Mary have deduced is just the latest in a series—and after some bickering they decide to work together.

And more. The geeky, virginal Mary—somewhat slower in the sexual race than her contemptuous kid sister Vicki (Sokoloff)—falls in love with him. After a typically exploitationer solo scene with those photographs she shot, she allows him to take her virginity in the back of her car . . . despite the fact that there’s a perfectly functional bed in his apartment mere yards away.

Another corpse is discovered. Guinn rants in the way aging cops do in movies of this kind. Suspicion focuses on Earl Parkins (Bowen), the guy who runs one of the rides in the carnival that’s currently in town—a carnival whose previous stops just happen to match up with similar killings. The carnival boss, Roxanne de Carlo (a bizarrely uncredited Crow . . . or maybe she preferred it that way), delivers the movie’s best performance in her few onscreen moments: she was apparently once married to Parkins but ditched him because of his screwing around. At the moment, as Mary and Tony have already discovered, he’s canoodling with junky teenager Sherry Tarnley (Devaney).

True Crime 1996 - 3 Carny owner RoxanneCarny owner Roxanne (Ashley Crow).

Long before this point you’ve worked out who the killer is; in fact, so has Mary—but when she reports her various discoveries to Guinn he dismisses them as nonsense. Later he wises up—say, this numbnuts highschool kid is cleverer than all us trained detectives!—but when he finally takes action he gets himself killed . . .

True Crime 1996 - 5 Tony reacts angrily to Mary's suggestion he's the killer

Tony (Kevin Dillon) reacts angrily to Mary’s suggestion he’s the killer.

There’s an odd and somewhat repellent feel to True Crime. Overall the movie has the dispiriting ambience of something that seems eager to be a sort of Nancy Drew but with added sex and cussing: in fact, Guinn says at one point, “I want you to stop this Nancy Drew bullshit right fucking now!” (It was tempting to obey, but I persevered.)

True Crime 1996 - 2 Detectives take notes, right

Detectives take notes, right?

Silverstone’s representation of a geeky highschool kid is little better than embarrassing: she affects a prissy walk that may be practiced by cheerleaders attempting to impress college jocks with their intellectual prowess but is otherwise not seen in nature. Like all her classmates and her younger sister, she has a school uniform that incorporates a skimpy miniskirt; I took ages trying to remember where I recognized this style from, then realized it was from those dreadful borderline pinkus where we’re treated to lascivious glimpses of schoolgirls’ knickers. The good performances the movie boasts come from peripheral characters: Devaney as Sherry, Sokoloff as the ghastly kid sister Vicki, Dowdy as Kathleen, Brooks as Margie and most especially Crow as Roxanne.

To be blunt, the best bit of True Crime is the song played over the closing credits: “Journey Through the Heart” by Blake Leyh and Amanda Kramer, sung by Amanda Kramer. If you can’t bring yourself to watch the movie, the song is here (MySpace) or here (YouTube).

True Crime 1996 - 6 closer

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On Amazon.com: True Crime [DVD]

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6 thoughts on “True Crime (1996 DTV)

    • Yes, I can’t now remember why I watched it. I may have thought it might make an interesting comparison with the 1999 Clint Eastwood movie of the same title. Or something. Who knows?

      Thanks for dropping by!

  1. Yes, without a doubt a riveting review of an obviously sub-par effort. When you mention that the killer was known earlier on I thought of Robert Siodmak’s 1946 ‘The Spiral Staircase,’ though this one bears little similarity to it. I loved your description of Silverstone’s dress and walk.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Sam, and as always for the kind words!

      I thought of Robert Siodmak’s 1946 ‘The Spiral Staircase,’

      That is almost certainly the nicest thing anyone has ever said about True Crime (except possibly the director’s mom, and even then she must have had her fingers crossed). In this instance it seems to be just a matter of appalling plotting, or perhaps there was a chunk missed out during which it was explained why she chose to disregard the very obvious evidence of his guilt.

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