“If Looks Could Kill” (2016): All Flash, No Substance

As If Looks Could Kill begins Faith (Stefanie Estes) has graduated from the police academy with flying colors and has returned home to join the police force.  Her childhood best friend, Paul (Tomek Kosalka), is a detective in town and vouches for her to his captain and it’s official – she’s an officer!  But the celebration is short-lived when a ruckus occurs at a bar that evening and Paul’s attention (and affection) is focused on Jessica (Summer Spiro) – a patron involved in said ruckus.  Despite being hailed as a good detective, Paul ignores all of the metaphoric flashing signs and starts seeing Jessica. As their relationship rockets past all expected dating norms, they’re soon married and expecting a kid.  Sensing something is amiss, Faith starts looking into Jessica and the events from the bar that night.  However, is Faith looking into Jessica because she’s concerned about Paul, or is she infatuated with him and maybe looking to sabotage things?  The title card doesn’t say “Small Town Murder for nothing!

Wait – what? “Small Town Murder?”  This is supposed to be If Looks Could Kill, isn’t it? And hold on, isn’t If Looks Could Kill  a 1991 Richard Grieco movie about a high school student (Grieco) who goes to France to get a missing French Credit and is mistaken for a spy with the same name as his?  Apparently, someone – perhaps distributor The Asylum or broadcaster Lifetime Movie Network – wanted a punchier name, so it was changed. In either case, both are better than the working title of the film – Stillwater– which was so named after the town where the supposed true events occurred that the movie is based on.

Directed and written by James Cullen Bressack (with a writing assist from Zack Ward), If Looks Could Kill  is not a bad movie.  Technically and visually, it’s quite well done. From extreme close-ups to nicely shot panoramic establishing shots, Bressack has a very good eye for what he wants on the screen.  The problems with the film, however, are that it’s, well… You know how ads for food make the food look amazing? Things look so good that your mouth starts watering and your stomach grumbles a little – but if you were to actually taste that food it would be very bland (if it had a palatable taste in the first place) because of how much it’s handled, the lights on the shoot, etc.  If the movie  was a hamburger, that’s the kind of food If Looks Could Kill would be.  The story is one we’ve all seen before, and Bressack and Ward don’t bring much (if anything) new to the table.  Maybe the vocations of the people involved, but that’s about it.  Anybody that has sat through a Lifetime movie (and you know who you are) will probably be able to piece things together within the first twenty minutes.

The acting doesn’t help much.  Stefanie Estes is the standout – her turn as Faith, the concerned friend with a keen set of detective skills, makes the character relatable. Estes is given a wide range of emotions to run through and she pulls them all off quite well.  One scene in particular, where Faith is trying some lipstick on, is played with a subtlety that could almost be written off, making it a pointless scene.  But because Estes does it so well, it really conveys a lot about her character.  Sadly, nobody else raises their game aside from Summer Spiro, but as the “villain” (or is she?) character, she gets to go over the top at times which fits her characte are  There’s no real nuances needed for “Jessica” so any range that Spiro might have isn’t given a chance to shine.  She does fake a good orgasm, though.  The less said about Tomek Kalsaka, the better.  “Paul” is either a poorly written character or Kosalka just doesn’t have the ability to hit the notes (as it were) required to make the character believable (or even that likable, to be honest).  Instead, we’re treated to an incredibly dim detective who would probably be fooled by a burglar wearing a black and white striped shirt and a domino mask.

In the end, If Looks Could Kill  isn’t a bad movie – it’s just uninspired and not very memorable – kind of like sex after 15 years of marriage.  You’re probably better off trying to track down that Richard Grieco movie and giving that a whirl.  Hell, it’s got Roger Daltrey (of the  rock band, The Who) in it – that alone is worth the effort it would take to find a copy.

If Looks Could Kill (2016) 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Mike Imboden
Mike Imboden has been watching horror and sci-fi films since the mid 70s when he first saw The Wolfman on Sir Graves Ghastly out of Detroit. Since then he’s developed an affinity for 80s slasher movies, zombie films and Godzilla. Mike is also into comics and has written for a number of small press comics, most notably Fist of Justice (which he co-created) as well as being a contributor to the New York Times best-selling FUBAR anthologies. In addition to what you read here, he is also a contributing writer for That’s Not Current.