MRR Review: "Blue Caprice"

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An abandoned boy is lured to America and drawn into the shadow of a dangerous father figure. Inspired by the real life events that led to the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks.
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MRR Review: "Blue Caprice"

Rating: R (disturbing violent content, language, and brief drug use)
Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: Jan. 19, 2013
Directed by: Alexandre Moors
Genre: Crime/Drama

In 2002, two snipers blazed a trail of terror over a three-week period during which they shot and killed ten people while wounding several others. The news media was in a frenzy as the seemingly random attacks and an initial lack of suspects gripped the nation. "Blue Caprice" tells the story of the two men behind the attacks, showing how they went from friendship to a dangerous and ultimately deadly partnership. Though the case has since been solved, the story about how these terrible crimes came to be is still a gripping and eerily entertaining tale.

After a montage of real footage regarding the true events behind the film, the action is taken to Antigua, where John Allen Muhammad (Isaiah Washington) is staying with his children. While there, he sees teenager Lee Boyd Malvo (Tequan Richmond) seemingly trying to drown himself in the choppy surf. He rescues the boy, whose mother has abandoned him, and takes him in with his other children. John is going through a rough patch with his ex-wife, who takes custody of their children and retreats back to the United States. Due to John's occasionally erratic and violent behavior, she disappears with the kids once she gets back to the US, and this sends John into a rage. He has already begun forging a father-son relationship with the very impressionable Lee, who never had a father figure in his life. Young Lee is willing to do anything, and the sociopathic John takes full advantage.

John brings Lee to the US with him in an effort to track down his ex and their children. In the meantime, they begin shooting guns together, and John realizes that Lee has a real talent with a gun. When John traces his family to the Washington, DC, area, he and Lee begin their reign of terror, indiscriminately killing a random sampling of people across several states. The idea for all of this starts with John, but it is ultimately Lee who begins to instigate shooting incidents, leading John to proudly pat him on the back and coolly say, "I've created a monster."

Fans of the hit ABC drama "Grey's Anatomy" probably remember Washington as Dr. Burke, the demanding cardio surgeon who left abruptly after he was jilted at the altar. This is easily his best-known role to date, but that may all change now with the release of "Blue Caprice." Washington turns in a striking, haunting performance as a man so broken that he may very well be beyond help. The way he can manipulate Lee until the student becomes the teacher is a terrifying joy to watch. Not to be outdone, Richmond is Washington's equal in nearly every scene, and the two have good chemistry. The audience can totally believe that the two started out as a surrogate father-son duo and eventually morphed into two cogs in a well-oiled killing machine. Even if the film weren't based on a true story, this chilling tale would still be very believable thanks to the acting turns by Washington and Richmond.

Director Alexandre Moors had previously been known for his special effects work and a few short films that he had helmed. "Blue Caprice" marks his feature directorial debut, and it is quite a doozy. There are a few things he has yet to learn as a director, but this is still an impressive debut. The depth of emotion he manages to convey goes beyond what one might expect from a first-time movie director. Similarly, screenwriter Ronnie Porto was also a novice working well beyond his experience level. He had previously only written one short film script and done some work in the camera and electric department. It seems almost as if both Porto and Moors came out of nowhere to make such a haunting film.

When events in a film are based on a true story of two villains as vile as John and Lee, it is easy for the filmmakers to portray them only as villains. Moors and Porto are careful to try and give a human face to the atrocities John and Lee committed, and they do so successfully. That isn't to say that the two come off in a good light; instead, they come off as two loners with serious emotional issues who grow into monsters. They didn't start out this way, and "Blue Caprice" aims to show the tumultuous journey that turned them into killers. It's an effective strategy that makes the film all the more chilling and topical, especially in light of the increased scrutiny in the US regarding gun violence.

Rating: 3 out of 5