Today’s review is of Joanne Ostrow’s review of “The Riverman,” written for The Denver Post. I happen to enjoy the movie, and her review isn’t bad, either. There really aren’t many reviews of this movie, but I had to dig one up after watching it again this morning.
The Riverman is a true crime horror movie based on detective/profiler Robert Keppel’s book, “The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer,” In this movie, Keppel is played by Bruce Greenwood. Cary Elwes plays Bundy (and, if you don’t know who he is, he played Westley in “The Princess Bride,” and Robin Hood in Mel Brooks’ “Robin Hood: Men In Tights”).
It should be emphasized that the movie is based on a true story. This is no Princess Bride, and the villains are worse than Richard Lewis or the Sheriff of Rottingham. As Ostrow notes, “The creepiest parts of The Riverman… are the words taken directly from transcripts of conversations with notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.” Indeed. One fascinating aspect to this movie is how true it is. I haven’t listened to Bundy’s confession tapes in full, so I don’t know if all the verbal exchanges between Keppel and Bundy are depicted entirely accurately. But they are interesting nonetheless.
Ostrow does offer some critical opinions. For examples: “The film struggles a bit in relating a deeply interior story,” and “There’s some heavy-going psychoanalytical stuff… that doesn’t translate clearly to the screen.”
This is obviously her opinion, but she offers a respectful tone anyway. The main point is, this movie is about the minds of serial killers, and how difficult it is to understand them without feeling evil and gross ourselves. Ostrow could have noted that the movie isn’t much about “The Green River Killer,” and that the title “The Riverman” is somewhat metaphorical, relating to certain dialogue and imagery throughout. I guess I’ll be the one to note that. So there.
I myself have a few light critiques of the movie. For example, though I think Elwes does a great job depicting Bundy (he manages to even look like him, though he looks different in real life), I still wonder about his decision to give Bundy a light lisp throughout the movie (or was it the director’s decision?). I say this not to mock lisps, but because Elwes doesn’t noticeably lisp in other roles. Think back to Westley in “The Princess Bride,” as a point of reference. I have heard Ted Bundy’s real voice in various audio clips, and I don’t recall him having a lisp, either. I just find it interesting to note, even though Ostrow didn’t.
It doesn’t hold the movie back, really, but I have to say it’s a unique decision.
Ultimately, it helps that Ostrow considers The Riverman a “success,” as I do.