Blue Caprice (2013) / Drama

MPAA Rated: R for disturbing violent content, language and brief drug use
Running Time: 93min.

Cast: Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Tim Blake Nelson, Joey Lauren Adams
Director: Alexandre Moors

Screenplay: R.F.I. Porto
Review published September 19, 2013

Blue Caprice is a ponderous and moody dramatization based on the true story of Army vet John Allen Muhammad (Washington, Hollywood Homicide) and Lee Malvo (Richmond, Ray), who would gain notoriety as the "Beltway Snipers".  The two-man team went on a shooting spree, killing ten people, in and around the Washington D.C. area during three weeks in October, 2002. In the film, we see Malvo, a troubled and abandoned 17-year-old, taken from his home in Antigua by Muhammad,  The elder man claimed him as his son while there with his three natural (and abducted) children, bringing him back to his home in Tacoma, Washington.

However, Muhammad's bitter tirades on victimization and extremely misanthropic attitudes on American society seep insidiously into the younger boy's mind.  Muhammad's anger is spurred on by a restraining order he has on him preventing him from knowing the whereabouts of his children, and this misplaced rage seeped in to the lad's already apathetic outlook on life. Muhammad exacerbated matters by perpetually testing the boy's loyalty to him by showing him how to fight and shoot various kinds of guns -- skills they would use in Muhammad's mad quest to make American society wake up to the anger that they, and displaced people like them, have bottled up inside.

The 'blue Caprice' of the title refers to the color and model of the 1990 Chevrolet that the shooters used, hollowed out in the back to hide the fact that there is a sniper lurking in the trunk, ready to shoot unseen at random people in his sight. It could also be taken figuratively, as the 'blue' of the title can signify the sad mood of the story, and the 'caprice' the sudden changes in their behavior, lashing out against innocent people seemingly on a whim.

French transplant turned New York-based music video director Alexandre Moors, working on his first feature film, delivers a  beautifully shot but downbeat depiction of Malvo's journey from desperately lonely and abandoned child to having a father figure he can finally look up to.  It's a certain recipe for disaster that this paternal man is an ultra-paranoid psychopath, and expects his unofficially adopted son to return his love through heinous acts of violence.

Though Moors' film clocks in at an economical 93 minutes, there are more than a few lulls in this tale. The actual killing spree doesn't even occur until the final twenty minutes, and even then, it is only sketchily depicted (probably due to budgetary limitations). Not that we need to see graphic details of the killings to feel the impact, but the slowness by which the films up makes the shortness of the actual act feel like it is given short shrift comparatively.

Though we can glean the gist of his anger, Blue Caprice doesn't delve particularly deeply into the psychology of either of these men, to the point where we can watch their descent into madness, but we're disconnected to the understanding of their mental condition. Is it a sheer random act of violence, is it an orchestrated act of malevolence, or is it the result of deep-seated mental illness? What turns these men into monsters? We are left only to speculate.

While its lack of emotional resonance is a bit disappointing, Blue Caprice garners a recommendation as a film primarily due to Moors' curiously detached, impressionistic sense of style, which is somber and contemplative, as well as the smoldering, mostly improvised acting by Isaiah Washington, who infuses the manipulative Muhammad with an inner rage and self-righteous anguish that permeates every fiber of his being, like a long fuse that inches ever closer to certain explosiveness with each passing day. Richmond, as Malvo, isn't as defined, perhaps intentionally, serving as that blank slate for Muhammad to paint in with his own warped vision, that empty vessel into which he can pour all of his hate, anger and rage.

Though Moors offers up mood in place of facts, and abstraction in place of action, Blue Caprice emerges as a chilling mood piece that posits that there is sometimes a senselessness to trying to force a rationale on cancerous acts of evil intent.

Qwipster's rating:

2013 Vince Leo