In theory, there is an entertaining, and perhaps campy, satiric crime drama buried in "American Crime." At a very minimum, the film setup leaves you expecting a clever narrative device. This would, at least, have distinguished the film from the thousands of other movies that go directly to DVD. But any cleverness is soon forgotten in this blustery, overacted piece of nonsense. Too serious to be real "dumb" fun, too ridiculous to be taken as a straight thriller, and too silly to be seen as a media savvy satire--there really isn't much that works in "American Crime." It's a bit of a shame, too. With this cast and concept, a more focused screenplay and tighter direction could have made an effective little picture.
I thoroughly enjoyed the premise of "American Crime." Shot in the documentary style of "true crime" TV expose shows, the film tracks a possible serial killer. Seeing the film footage being reported on an actual TV program is a great idea and an interesting approach, you are lured into thinking that the film might really have a novel point of view. However, we soon step away from this concept and into "real life" scenarios. What is interesting, though, is that these scenes are also being filmed by characters within them. This movie, then, might have been unique had all the footage used been shot from a camera within the story (ALA the clever filmic technique of "The Blair Witch Project"). This seems to have been too much work, too, and any notions of the interesting narrative device enhancing the story are abandoned when regular camerawork soon takes over everything.
The story itself is a rather overheated bit of fluff. Rachael Leigh Cook, Kip Pardue and Annabella Sciorra play a local TV news crew on the track of a big story--a serial killer no one believes is real. Battling ineffective law enforcement and each other, they start to attract the attention of the killer. Cook becomes so freaked out that she may be targeted, she promptly abandons her job and life and moves away. In steps Cary Elwes as an "American Crime" correspondent to cover the story for national broadcast. Playing somewhat comically (which may or may not be intentional), these three spend the rest of the film seeking the truth and possibly putting themselves into harm's way. Seriously, several times I hoped the professional and intelligent combo of Scooby and Shaggy would help these morons investigate the crime more effectively. That's how silly it is!
Through it all, Elwes overacts (a common trait)--but, at least, it can be amusing at times. And I'll take my amusement where I can in this film. Like I said, the film seems to aspire to comment on the hypocrisy and complicity of TV programs in creating fame-seeking murderers--but the link is not well established (even though it's an easy target). So the film fails at satire, in addition to everything else. A silly disappointment that had the potential to be clever, but was too lazy to follow through with anything original. KGHarris, 02/07.