Director: Scott Foley
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Scott Foley, Donald Faison, James Carpinello, Amy Acker, Marika Dominczyk, Greg Grunberg and Dagmara Dominczyk
Plot: Ward (Faison) is married to a foul, abusive woman (D. Dominczyk), so his friends fantasise about killing her off, which comes in handy, when they accidentally do just that…
Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife is an interesting movie to say the least. Criticised rather severely by the movie world, it is generally not high on anyone’s watch list. However, there is still some slight charm to be found in the set-up. Take the behind the scenes production story, for example. The cast is pretty much all related to each other in some way, as if during a family dinner, it was noted how many film-makers were all in the same room, and someone decided it was about time they all got together and tried to make an independent movie. Director and star, Scott Foley is the brother-in-law to Patrick Wilson. Patrick Wilson’s wife is Dagmara Dominczyk who plays the eponymous wife. Domincyzk’s sister is also in the film. Amy Acker’s husband is James Carpinello. Donald Faison and Greg Grunberg are the close friends, judging by the fact they share a few IMDB credits with the rest of the cast, and were happy to join in. It creates this sense that there is a home-grown organic feel to this film, which gives it a natural charm, not seen with the bigger blockbusters in the cinema.
The plot is endlessly intriguing too. It takes a fairly simple story, but in creating a cast of interesting, but grounded characters, adds so many layers to the script that every angle of it breathes life. Dagmara Dominczyk, from the opening shot, sets herself up to be a horrible, ruthless person. Trapped in a loveless marriage with her husband, whom she gets a kick out of tormenting, she plays everyone around her. She spends the first half hour of the film, begin lazily cruel to anyone by her. While Ward, her husband, plays it down, despite clearly coming across as miserable, his friends agree that their old pal is down on his luck. During a golfing game, Wilson’s character strikes up a game where they ponder how they would kill her off, and if the world would be a better place without her. While the other two laugh it off as a joke, Wilson, miserable himself due to a trial separation with his wife and a growing sense of inescapable boredom, goes home and googles just how he would kill her and get away with it. Further down the line, Scott Foley’s character finds himself being blackmailed by Ward’s wife, and in the spur of the moment, kills her. This is when the movie comes alive as the rest of the gang, including Ward himself, whose quiet acceptance of the fact his wife has just been murdered by his best friend, is one of the more subtle, yet brilliant gags of the film. The movie takes an interesting turn here. On one hand, it is a crime thriller where the characters have to outsmart the neighbourhood cop and hide the body. But it is also a question of morality. How each character grows or reacts from the murder of Ward’s wife is fascinating? Because she was a horrible person, did she deserve to die? Will the friendship group break or become strong in this dark hour? Foley’s script asks all of these questions in a playful manner, creating a piece of cinema that will make you think.
Sadly, the negative reviews have stopped this from getting to a wider audience and therefore, the debate feels strangely cut off: an essay question that no one could be bothered to answer. There are a few glaring flaws which make it understandable why Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife isn’t as good as it could have been. For one, before Ward’s wife is killed off, this is a fairly straight-faced kitchen sink drama. A bunch of friends are down on their luck and we spend a good portion of the movie diving into their lives. It isn’t that interesting. Foley goes for minor chuckles rather than big laughs, which stops the movie from soaring through its build-up. Acker, Faison and Foley are great comedic actors, but their down-to-earth roles in this film hold them back. You understand the jokes are funny, rather than finding them funny. Everyone is likeable, but not much else. It’s not until the murder and the characters are put into a larger than life situation that their normality really finds a home. Suddenly the jokes flood in like a breath of fresh air. There is a natural flow to the comedy, with clever beats like the talk of murder getting too grizzly for one of the women, so she solves the issue by cracking open another bottle of wine. The set-pieces become more elaborate and Foley knows exactly how to mine both comedy and drama from the cast. The best moment in the movie is a suddenly dark turn of events out in a desert that reverts everything in a smart, eye-opening way. However, even in the second half, while everything is improved, there are still flaws. The women don’t make as much of an impact as the guys. Amy Acker and Marika Dominczyk feel wasted on the side-lines. Also, the movie takes a strange road near the end. I like the ending, because, in doing the complete opposite of what you expect, it really makes you think. You question the morals and the director’s script in a thoughtful, engaging way. But on the other hand, it also feels like a film that is missing an important third act. It’s an easy film to dislike, but, if you open up to it, it is also an easy film to enjoy.
Final Verdict: With unfunny portions and an odd choice of ending, Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife is easy to dismiss. But its writing is strong in places, suggesting half a good movie.