Cult Killer (2024)

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Cult-Killer-(2024)
Cult Killer (2024)

The Irish thriller “Cult Killer” is the weirdest serial killer movie you’ll see this week about abuse trauma, the monstrous sins of the super rich and some very strange things in the Irish criminal justice system that I suspect are just clumsy inventions of the screenwriter.

But it stars lovely, charismatic Alice Eve and simmering Spanish screen icon Antonio Banderas and hey Ireland. So I’m game.

Banderas plays the guy in the pub nobody should cross, especially not cheating couple Kevin and Michelle (Nigel Whitmey, Tara Breathnach), who think they’re sneaking around behind her back. When Mikael’s hired to follow them, bribe a barmaid into turning up the lights so he can snap a few shots and “serve” Kevin’s faithless solicitor with them, well.

Mikael sees Cassie (Eve) teasing three lug locals from one end of this bar to t’other. But when they come after her as she throws back one last drink and exits through yon door, Mikael’s a step or two late with his assistance. She’s a two fisted drunk.

“Are you happy with a life that leads you into situations like that?” he asks her afterward. “No,” London-born librarian Cassie Holt has just found herself an ex-Interpol agent sponsor turned P.I., now working as a private detective “friend of Bill.”

Five years later she awakens on a bed an alcoholic no more when she gets The News. We’ve already seen him chased into an alley by a disguised woman wielding a knife.

His researcher/assistant vows to find Mikael’s killer Paul Reid plays another Irish cop in charge (Detective Inspector Rory McMahon) of another such murder which he figures will go unsolved for lack of resources. He signs her in.

Say what now? A North American seeing how abruptly this under-trained aspiring private detective is brought into a police investigation will find this whole turn of events head-scratching. Charles Burnley’s screenplay doesn’t waste time explaining, and Reid’s Det. Inspector just sort of makes it happen.

As the nut-with-a-knife has been targeting super-secretive Old Money in the county protected by snarling solicitor Victor Harrison (Matthew Tompkins) it’s jarring to see this green gumshoe accepted as “authority” when she starts flashing ID and asking questions that make folks uncomfortable.

But at least we’re shown a lot of Mikael mentoring Cassie, especially on firearms and fighting, in flashbacks. That’s enough to keep Banderas atop the bill if not satisfy viewers about how many basic “rules” of the genre Burnley and director Jon Keeyes break.

They give away the killer too soon, put her in girlfriend to girlfriend chats (split screens, each lying back on her bed), which reveal motive, shared past trauma with Cassie Holt and why she won’t kill “Cassie Holt,” whom she insists on calling by her full name repeatedly.

Good thriller requires good villains,” said Hitchcock, but our slayer isn’t “good” or portrayed entirely as a villain. Thank goodness for ferocious Olwen Fouéré of the recent “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and Robert Eggers’ Viking saga “The Northman” and screen vet Nick Dunning (“The Tudors,” “The Iron Lady”), who show up as proper titled, amoral, monstrous bad guys.

Fouéré steals the movie: even with its strange turns and taste of torture-porn-level violence, it’s achingly familiar in the way that such stories are. From the private eye who breaks the law to aid cops in catching a killer to flashbacks that patiently explain how our beautiful librarian acquired her “special skills,” there’s no surprising your way out of a script that’s just tropes and trivialized trauma against an Irish landscape like this one called Cult Killer.

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