Just when you think you couldn’t find another blustery, snow-filled, Scandinavian serial killer mystery picture than 2017’s The Snowman, here comes The Postcard Killings –– a horror-thriller that is so light on an adequate plot, so big on the needless filler, the only honest conclusion the adaptation of the James Patterson and Liza Marklund novel comes up with is that nothing good ever really comes out of having an education in art history.
The star of the film is Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the bullheaded New York City Detective Jacob Kanon, who gives an emotionally charged turn at times, and who travels through Europe chasing the serial killer who may or may not have murdered his daughter — she’s missing when the film begins. Along the way, he enlists the help of a German Inspector (Run Lola Run’s Joachim Krol), a British detective (Luther’s Steven Macintosh) and an American journalist working for a Scandinavian newspaper (The Good Fight’s Cush Gumbo) to track down the killer who is hunting young couples in love throughout Europe. Famke Janssen is stuck in the standard distraught mother role and has been little to do.
The Postcard Killings was directed Danis Tanovic (Tigers) and adapted by Marklund and Ellan Furman (The Infiltrator), who had the makings of a competent horror-thriller but may be the victim of having too many cooks in the kitchen. While this is certainly, in no means, trash cinema (see Bruce Willis’s Trauma Center), the film has its gratuitous moments. The plot, however, was influenced by a better film, one that’s marginally recommendable, called Switchback, a 1997 John McTiernan film starring Dennis Quaid, that tracked two suspects (Danny Glover and Jared Leto) and kept you guessing who the killer was by the film’s end. Here, you have two couples in a subplot, and it’s rather obvious who the killer is; to top that off, they give away the secret too early. The last half of the film begins to explain the backstory on the motive, which is eye-rolling, and even pompous.
The Postcard Killings also seems to have a disconnect between the film’s narrative and the script that may lie at the feet of its editing. You have several scenes that are photographed with weight or even greater importance that fall flat. For instance, when Morgan says goodbye to a colleague at the end of the film, attempting to show closure on a journey together that didn’t appear to intensify to that level at all during the film. Is that editing or filler? Well, there are plenty of those as well, with Morgan accosting an airline attendant about grabbing a flight without adding the motive behind his outburst, and they’re so needless (there are plenty of these scenes) it makes you think the film could have been finished in just under an hour.
The Postcard Killings can look handsome at times, with Morgan and Cumbo making a fine pair, and if anything, you have to admire the turn here by the veteran actor. You’ve rarely seen him like this in any movie or television show, wrought with anguish, despair, with the film’s best scene coming around with Gumbo that is sparingly moving enough that you wish it could be saved for a better film.
In the end, with the film’s by-the-numbers plot, absurd motivations for the killings that are kept together with so much fluffernutter, along with its humorous let’s-have-a-sequel ending, you will surely lose interest by the 5th time Morgan’s Kanon flashes his NYC Police badge in a half-dozen countries until you finally ask yourself why does that give him jurisdiction like an upgraded pass at Disney — it’s that kind of thriller.
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M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.