You know you have a true mystery when the facts in a case don’t add up, and Lifetime’s original thriller “At Risk” is its own kind of mystery. Based on bestselling author Patricia Cornwell’s book, it has a talented cast and polished tech credits, but they just don’t yield much of a movie. Granted, the book is arguably one of Cornwell’s least popular stories, and with her signature creation Kay Scarpetta having just been optioned for the bigscreen, “Risk’s” protag, Win Garano, feels a bit like the unwanted second cousin.
Originally written as a 15-part serial for New York Times Magazine, John Pielmeier’s script still betrays its origins. Full of the kind of dialogue one can actually picture on a page, the convoluted plot about a 20-year-old murder and its connection to the Massachusetts governor’s race is a head scratcher, filled with red herrings and an anticlimactic denouement.
Andie MacDowell is Monique “Money” Lamont, a power-hungry D.A. with gubernatorial ambitions, who is using the reluctant Garano (“Rescue Me’s” Daniel Sunjata), a cracker-jack state investigator, as the poster boy for her new anti-crime initiative. Her campaign slogan, “Any crime, any time,” has Garano trudging to Tennessee to solve the murder of a small-town grandmother.
Garano is one of those swaggering crimefighters who beds women with the same clinical detachment he brings to his work. His only real relationships are with his eccentric Nana (Diahann Carroll) and his best friend Jessie (Barclay Hope-).
While Sunjata has the charisma for a Garano-like character, it’s hard to be emotionally invested when none of the characters possess enough emotional depth. Then again, the main murder mystery isn’t that interesting, and the cold-case connection to current-day activities is disappointing by Cornwell’s standards; the author’s medical sleuthing details are missing here, replaced with violent images and a heavy gross-out factor.
Carroll is a welcome screen presence, creating the pic’s most colorful and appealing character. A nearly unrecognizable Annabeth Gish plays the inexplicable and unrealized Sykes, Garano’s protege. Her side story is confounding, and ultimately, maddening — just like the rest of the movie.
A second movie featuring the central characters, “The Front,” will air April 17.