Who's Your Daddy?
Alexandre Moors’s Blue Caprice sidesteps the easy path of sensational splatter, does not rest its case on video-game violence, and does not cheapen that case by playing any race, ethnicity or religion card. After all, an unsuspecting African-American stock clerk is spared only by split-second chance, and there are no villainous foreign or clerical fanatics.
All of which restraints make the French now American-based director, co-producer, -editor and –story writer’s first feature even more shuddery. All appears so calm, so unstoppable, and originates within our borders and arises from a once unimaginable frame of mind become daily more commonplace headline reality. The 2002 largely DC-area killings by the Beltway snipers are but a memory swallowed up by subsequent other atrocities. This Sundance and MoMA/Lincoln Center New Directors/New Films Opening Night selection is matter-of-fact in offering, not attention-grabbing results, but, instead, possible causes arising in interpersonal relationships.
Tequan Richmond is Lee Boyd Malvo, abandoned to his own devices in Antigua by his mother. He is pulled from suicide by American John Allen Muhammad (Isaiah Washington, also co-executive producer), who brings him into the family of three younger children apparently spirited away from the legal custody granted to his ex-wife. In an unclear jump, the Army-veteran father and the West Indian teenager abruptly are in Tacoma, Washington, living at the man’s girlfriend Angela’s (Cassandra Freeman), while the three biological children have been restored to their mother whereabouts unknown.
Taciturn Lee is withdrawn and, psychologically wounded, absorbed into John’s father figure, a sinister hollow man bitterly obsessed by the loss of children, family life, house and whatever standing in the community.
Coincidentally surnamed Civil War capitals, Richmond and Washington are chillingly effective, seconded by Blake Nelson and Joey Lauren Adams as white-trashy gun-loving former Army buddy Ray and wife Jamie, with whom they then stay in another weird relationship, emotionally passionless but rife with sexual overtone.
The two loner males bond in rough physical activity, while John verbalizes the immense fury that motivates him, an anger at a system which delusion insists has rejected and deprived him. One might read the boy’s unnecessary obvious supermarket shoplifting as an early, and sole, attempt to be arrested and freed from the other’s web, while John teaches and tests him, tempering him into accomplice and instrument of vengeance.
Ostensibly to secure proof of love, such testing escalates from a get-even murder on the West Coast to pointless sniper killings on the East. The later mouthed rationale is the sowing of panic and fear --which they do achieve -- and an ensuing chaos which will crumble the whole system. The customized sniper vehicle is a secondhand blue Chevy Caprice, whose license plates are conspicuous and conspicuously changed, but the title model also points to an “unpredictable whim” from motiveless malignancy.
The assassins are caught by a chance as random as those that cross-hair the dozen victims cut down performing the most commonplace of American activities. Dispassionate as the deeds at its core, Blue Caprice is horrifying, for such terrorism becomes more frequent and, originating in internal social and mental sickness, is nigh impossible to defend against.
(Released by IFC Films and rated "R" by MPAA.)