Though a name that may escape you, director Jerry Jameson has forged quite the career for himself on the smaller screen, as the man behind a plethora of TV series and movies dating back to the 1970s. With only the occasional deviation into the world of cinema, regrettably it shows, as his latest endeavour – depicting the true crime story of serial killer Brian Nichols, feels like the sort of film you’d stumble across late at night on one of the lesser known stations on your Freeview box.
David Oyelowo – who also serves a producer on this project – takes on the role of the aforementioned sociopath, who is sentenced to 25 years in prison for a crime he is adamant he did not commit – only to break free, and murder the judge assigned to his case. That’s not his only victim either, murdering three other innocent people before finally setting his sights on the abode of meth addict, and single mum, Ashley Smith (Kate Mara). Seeking a place to hide away from the law enforcement desperately pursuing the fugitive, and in particular Detective John Chestnut (Michael Kenneth Williams), Brian Nichols keeps Ashley hostage in her own home, while she seeks in convincing the savage killer to hand himself in.
Given the actions of Nichols, it becomes a real challenge to find any semblance of sympathy for the character, despite the attempts from Jameson to evoke such empathy, in what is, at its core, a story of redemption. Perhaps in a bid to try and make that connection between the viewer and the killer, and to see him as a human being, as somebody’s son, we could start the narrative at an earlier date. If we went back to his initial trial, or perhaps even further to when he had a successful, prosperous job – we could learn more about who he is, get to know him and feel closer to him, so that by the time comes when he goes on his killing spree, we have that pre-established connection. Without it, it’s rather difficult to see him as anything but a merciless murderer.
Oyelowo does, however, naturally add a tenderness to the role, but perhaps it may have been beneficial had he switched roles with Williams. Of course it’s imperative actors tackle characters outside of their comfort zone, and both performers should be commended for going against type rather than settle for roles we tend to associate them with. But Williams just has more of a ruthless streak to his demeanour, an unhinged, unpredictability that would add an added element of suspense and intensity to the hostage sequences had be played Nichols.
As we approach the final stages, Jesus Christ comes dramatically into play, and then, an equally as famous figure shows up – with Oprah appearing in the closing credits. It all gets very daytime TV drama, with hope becoming the prevalent theme, which just doesn’t seem like the most appropriate sentiment to take precedence over a story where four people tragically lost their lives.