Murder on the Cape (Murder on Cape Cod)

A romantic and picturesque image does not a great movie make.

(2017) True Crime Drama (Vision) Josh Walther, Jade Harlow, Heather Egeli, Tim Misuradze, Chris Lazzaro, Kevin Cotter, John Clayton, Sarah MacDonnell, Bragan Thomas, Bryce Egeli, Christina Egeli, Tobias Everett, Lisa Hayes, Alison Hyder. Directed by Arthur Egeli

 

This film, which has made some film festival appearances before moving on to various streaming and VOD services, is based on the real-life murder of fashion writer Christa Worthington. The crime has been the subject of a 48 Hours investigation and more recently a video podcast by the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 revisiting the crime.

As with most true crime films some of the details are changed but we’ll get to that in a moment. In Murder on the Cape fashion writer Elizabeth Baldwin (Harlow) has moved from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the quiet and picturesque New England fishing village of Denton Harbor (a fictional town standing in for the real location of Truro, Massachusetts). Mike Luna (Walther), an unemployed fisherman who is delivering firewood to help make ends meet for his family, brings some to Baldwin who takes a liking to the handsome and burly Mike.

Mike is married to Nancy (H. Egeli) who is supportive but is running out of patience. Mike insists that he’s a fisherman and that’s what he’s meant to do; when a job working for the town police department monitoring the shellfish population and making sure that people have the proper permits to harvest them. Mike considers it a humiliating job but after a dust-up with Nancy he admits that he needs the work and does what he has to.

He runs into Elizabeth when her neighbor Peter Benedict (Misuradze) inadvertently violates town policy and gets hypothermia in the process. Although Peter has ideas about developing a romantic relationship with Elizabeth, she only has eyes for Mike. Flattered by the attention, he begins an extramarital affair with the beautiful writer.

Eventually the inevitable happens and he gets her pregnant which leads to a series of complications. Then when Elizabeth turns up brutally murdered, the list of suspects is long but only the town’s ne’er-do-well drug dealer (Lazzaro) knows the truth about who really murdered Elizabeth Baldwin.

The cinematographer Jonathan Mariande acquits himself nicely with some beautifully shot footage mainly in picturesque Provincetown, Massachusetts. One gets a real sense of the charm of a New England village and of the pace of life on the Cape.

The titular murder doesn’t take place until near the very end of the film and there is no focus on the police investigation that followed – if you’re interested in that (and the story is an interesting one) it wouldn’t be a bad idea to find the footage from the various network newsmagazines that covered the murder. The Egelins and co-writer Ian Bowater focus more on the circumstances of the star-crossed lovers (the real person based on Mike Luna was a prime suspect early on in the case; one doesn’t get that sense from the movie) and on the economic upheaval that brought poverty to much of the fishing community in Denton Harbor. That’s fascinating material. However, those who are familiar with the case may be aware that there are some very significant differences between real and reel in this case.

Unfortunately they torpedo what could have been a much more interesting film by focusing on the more prurient aspects of the affair. The dialogue is a bit clunky and the actors look uncomfortable reciting it. This comes off as a made-for-TV film in a lot of ways and not in ways that I would especially be pleased about. The movie doesn’t really add a whole lot to the genre but there are enough entertaining elements to make it worth checking out if you happen upon it.

REASONS TO GO: The cinematography is lovely showing off Provincetown very nicely.
REASONS TO STAY: It feels very much like a Lifetime TV movie with somewhat stiff acting and clunky dialogue.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some sexual content, some disturbing images and an off-camera murder.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Arthur Egeli and his wife Heather who co-wrote the film knew some of the people involved in the Christa Worthington murder including the woman based on the character that Heather plays.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/20/17: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Foxcatcher
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT:
The Family I Had

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8 thoughts on “Murder on the Cape (Murder on Cape Cod)

  1. This movie was terrible although camera work was quite good, the so-called acting was appalling, the music dull, the script rotten, awful ending …color grading, editing poor…

  2. “Arthur Egeli and his wife Heather who co-wrote the film knew some of the people involved in the Christa Worthington murder including the woman based on the character that Heather plays.” Huh? So other people besides the one convicted, Christopher McCowen, were involved in Christa’s murder, including a woman whose persona was based on a movie character created some 14 years later? And Arthur and Heather knew some of them? Ha, ha, sorry, copy editor here; I know what you meant. (BTW, the true and full story of the real murder will probably never be known or revealed.)

    This movie totally sucked. It was even worse than “Beaches.” At the end, when Elizabeth went into her house, why didn’t the two crazies just walk over to her SUV and grab the backpack they were after? And what kind of mother would leave her toddler out in a cold car while she slowly unpacked groceries? It doesn’t make sense that Carlos would kill her without even asking where the backpack was or looking for it, since that’s the whole bloody reason they went to her house. After Sammy ridiculously killed himself, no further investigation into the murder was conducted. Case closed, Carlos gone and scot-free, end of stupid story.

    • Do we know that he killed himself?
      You wouldn’t believe how stupid some mother’s others. Mine forgot about me for twenty five years.
      Both guys wanted to have her and I’m sure they assumed the backpack was on the house already but if they checked first, then no one could get her.
      She must have come at him with the knife right away?
      When it’s based on a true story, what’s not to like? It’s like history class ,but not boring.

      • I would go that far. And as far as the review and a 5.5 I guess the alcoholic beverages of choice and a joint must have been consumed along with the movie.

      • To each their own. I might say that you were having a bad day to begin with when you saw it and took out your anger on the film. I saw some things in the film that were worthwhile that you evidently didn’t see or didn’t agree with. That’s why they’re called opinions. Mine is no more valid than yours is. But thanks for reading.

  3. I was surprisingly impressed by this movie. I knew he was a new actor but he wasnt trying to act . It seemed like he was just being himself which was a good balance with the experienced actress. The pace was slow but the movie was interesting unlike most fast crazy movies or slow boring movies that Hollywood is addicted to now.
    It’s really a tragic ending. Clearly , God wanted that marriage to last .

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