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The Killing of Bobby Greene   B-

One by One Film & Video

Year Released: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Mick McCleery
Writer: Mick McCleery
Cast: Mick McCleery, Felicia Freedman, Joshua Batt, Kim Haist, Chris Gullo.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

There's just something I dig about films where the perfect crime goes awry. What intrigues me most about these kind of movies is the conflict: both between the characters involved in the crime as well as the internal conflict of one of more of them. Every film needs conflict, but botched-crime movies are especially dependent on it. If this conflict -- both between the characters and within -- is weak or unconvincing, the film will fail. But if it's real and believable, that's what will pull us into the story and keep us there, even if we don't actually like the characters involved.

The Killing of Bobby Greene is a botched-crime movie that works better than you'd probably expect. In the film, writer-director Mick McCleery (from Kevin Lindenmuth's Addicted to Murder films) plays Ray Sterling, a guy who harbors an undying hatred for fellow high school student Bobby Greene (Chris Gullo). You see, Bobby's dad was responsible for putting Ray's dad behind bars. While he was locked up, Ray's dad killed himself. Ray convinces three friends to help him kidnap Bobby and hide him in an underground cavern in a lake, just as a prank. He promises that no one will get hurt -- but, of course, one glance at the movie's title will tell you that's bullshit. Besides, there wouldn't be much a movie here if poor Bobby didn't wind up dead, would there?

Now the four friends -- Ray and his girlfriend Kelly (Kim Haist), along with his best buddy Dan (Joshua Batt) and Dan's girlfriend Christy (Felicia Freedman) -- must cover up their crime and pretend that it never happened. That's always easier said than done. And with a pesky detective investigating Bobby's disappearance, their crime won't be forgotten anytime soon.

Mick McCleery casually eases a sense of urgency into the proceedings, involving us in the story despite all the usual shortcomings that plague these micro-budget films. The visual style of The Killing of Bobby Greene is of the point and shoot variety, most of the characterizations are flimsy at best, and the acting is sometimes unintentionally funny. But the film works mainly because of a good lead performance by McCleery and interesting conflict between the characters. And, hey, the conflict manages to be convincing despite some weak performances -- no small feat. The relationship between Ray and Christy is particularly engrossing, and there was definitely some real on-screen chemistry going on there.

While the movie isn't close to making the ranks of great botched-crime films like A Simple Plan, it's a respectable effort that's a lot better than it has any right to be. Besides, we can't expect something like this -- shot on video with very little money and non-professional actors and crew -- to compete with the big guys like Tarantino and Sam Raimi. It's just not fair. But I liked the film for accomplishing most of what it set out to do, and doing so admirably. The Killing of Bobby Greene has genuine suspense, intriguing conflict, and a knockout climax.

Review published 01.12.2001.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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