SEATTLE–“Who Killed the Baby Jesus” is a promising start for first-time director Douglas Borghi, who also wrote the screenplay. It’s fast-paced, tightly written and has strong performances. Due to its predictability, however, pic fails to evoke intense stomach-tightening tension usually associated with violent crime dramas, but should have some appeal for those who enjoy profiles of psychopathic behavior.
Set in a desert of the Southwest, story centers on a tough, beautiful and very evil mother (Rende Rae Norman) and her stormy relationship with her equally beautiful and thoroughly manipulated daughter (Tuesday Knight) as they plan a heist that will keep them on easy street for a very long time.
To help them pull off the job, they enlist the services of a handsome young hit man (Billy Wirth), whose knowledge of the heist’s details unfolds slowly with surprising turns.
Norman delivers a strong performance as an amoral individual who trusts no one and offers plenty of reasons for her social alienation. Naturally, the mother imbues these same sociopathic traits in her daughter, with whom she has a love-hate relationship.
While Borghi may have created a brutally realistic world, unfortunately he also created one that is fairly predictable, which weakens the dramatic tension. There is not too much mystery in the mother’s actions, and the daughter, not surprisingly, flees in the final scenes because she doesn’t trust her mother.
But this is not a fatal flaw, and pic does provide an interesting character study, with enough twists and turns to sustain interest.
Performances are sharp, superbly led by Norman. Knight is impressive as the daughter struggling to break free of her mother’s grip, and Wirth delivers a very credible performance of a heartless hitman longing for love.
Tech credits are OK, especially editing.