"Cult Killer" is a top-notch thriller that grabs you early and never lets go.
January is a wonderful month for movies. Most people get excited for the summer blockbuster or the end-of-year award seekers, but for me, nothing can top January releases. These films are the outliers – the ones that seem to can't find a home in what most would consider the fertile ground of movie release dates. They're not summer blockbusters or end-of-the-year award seekers; these are the freaky and funky little flicks I love to discover as the new year begins.
After taking a short hiatus from reviewing to close 2023, the first up for 2024 is "Cult Killer," starring Antonio Banderas and Alice Eve. It's an intense thriller with enough twists to satisfy even the ficklest fans and is anchored by solid performances. The movie morphs from start to finish, going from a mystery and then turning to a thriller that will leave you taut from the mounting tension.
We meet Mikeal (Banderas) in a bar on a case. He's trailing a lawyer whose firm has hired him to dig up dirt on him. During the course of the evening, he sees Cassie (Eve) playing her usual game, according to the bartender – flirt, get drunk, flirt some more, and leave before things get too hairy, but not this night. She's followed by a group of goons, but Mikeal steps in and helps not only with the goon platoon but also getting Cassie's life on track.
We leap ahead five years and find that Cassie is a recovered alcoholic, and Mikeal has become her mentor, showing her the ropes of being a private investigator. Neither one realized how quickly she'd been called into action. After a specter from her past reemerges, Cassie has fallen off the wagon. She's awoken by a phone call informing her that her mentor and friend has been murdered while investigating a case.
His death thrusts his young protégé into duty, and she soon finds that her hunt for Mikeal’s killer has opened a pandora's box that features influential families with enough skeletons in their closets to fill a cemetery.
Working alongside the local police sergeant Rory McMahon (Paul Reid), Cassie begins to uncover a trail of misdeeds that will turn her world upside down and have her confront demons from her past. While investigating a mansion, she discovers a room, unlike anything she's ever encountered before, coming face-to-face with Jamie (Shelley Hennig), a woman who had a front-row seat to the atrocities Cassie and Rory are investigating. She's also the woman who murdered her mentor and boss, mistakenly believing that he was part of a group that inflicted so much pain upon her.
Cassie soon realizes they must forge an alliance to bring the baddies to justice. The only problem is that Cassie wants to stay on the right side of the law, but Jamie is hellbent on revenge and does not care if anyone gets hurt along the way. As the baddies begin falling one by one at the hands of Jamie, we find that the most disturbing member is Dottie (Olwen Fouéré), who is the most unassuming. She and Jamie have one final confrontation, resulting in her brutal yet satisfying end.
"Cult Killer" is a compelling thriller that I couldn't get enough of. Banderas, Eve, Hennig and Fouéré carry the film to a height I didn't expect. Their performances are natural and powerful in their realness. Fouéré is so convincingly evil that it's a delight to watch her work her craft.
Director Jon Keeyes and writer Charles Burnley do a great job delivering a story that has the disturbing subject of sex trafficking and sexual abuse at its core but presents it in an honest way that gives strength to those who suffered through the abuse. They also provide the audience some moments to breathe as a series of flashbacks are utilized throughout the film to show Cassie and Mikhail's relationship through the years. The breaks are much needed and show the talent and intelligence Keeyes and Burnley have.
"Cult Killer" is a top-notch thriller that grabs you early and never lets go. Powered by performances by Banderas, Eve, Herrig and Fouéré, the film shouldn't be missed.