Hollywood has a tendency to underestimate the intelligence of the American people. This is shown by the plethora of stupid, poorly thought so-called “motion pictures” that Hollywood produces and distributes every year. One such movie is 1987’s The Killing Time.
Kiefer Sutherland stars as a hitchhiker who kills Brian Mars who has just been hired as a deputy sheriff in a coastal county in Louisiana. Sutherland assumes the identity of his victim and arrives in the county seat to become a new deputy sheriff and nobody suspects otherwise. And this despite the fact that Mars was supposed to be a very good friend of the chief deputy sheriff (Beau Bridges) and also despite Sutherland’s tendency to make psycho-type statements such as saying that he likes being a deputy sheriff because he can carry a gun and shove people around.
Perhaps part of the reason why nobody catches on to Sutherland’s deception is that in this particular county, corruption in law enforcement is rampant. The county sheriff, played by Joe Don Baker, is totally corrupt and is planning on moving to Mexico where he will live out his retirement on a huge nest egg created by lavish bribes and kickbacks. Even by the low standards of Hollywood, Baker’s corruption and exaggerated Southern fried sheriff behavior is absurd. If
The Killing Time was a comedy, then it might work. However, in an alleged straight action drama, Baker’s act is screwy.
The chief deputy sheriff is not much better. Despite the fact that his ex-girlfriend is now married to a wealthy San Francisco real estate developer who has a nice estate down in the Louisiana county, he keeps on messing around with her to the point of going to San Francisco to attend parties that both she and her husband attend. This on a salary that Bridges’s character says is a bit short of $20,000. The husband (Wayne Rogers, formerly Trapper John on M*A*S*H*) is understandably concerned about the fact that this Louisiana lawman keeps on hanging around his wife, especially since the wife clearly likes Bridges’s attention.
As it happens, the husband has every reason to be concerned. His wife wants to murder him and marry Bridges and the chief deputy sheriff kind of waffles on the idea. One night, the wife puts a knockout drug in the husband’s drink and invites her boyfriend over to finish him off. Bridges freaks out, telling his galpal that murder is wrong and should never, ever be done. They put the husband in bed and he wakes up the next morning complaining of a hangover.
It is at this point that the movie lurches beyond the limits of believability. Bridges calls his gal and arranges for her to meet him at the abandoned lighthouse. There, he tells her that he’s decided for reasons too sensitive to share with the audience that he’s decided that she’s right, that hubby must die so that they can get married and live happily everyafter. Not only that, but he’s also come up with the neat idea of doing it in such a way that he can use his position to frame Sutherland for the murder. In other words, the chief deputy sheriff has decided in about 24 hours or so that not only is murder ok, its quite acceptable to frame an innocent man for a capital offense in Louisiana, where they take the death penalty very seriously.
Even more unbelievable is the fact that Bridges and his girl make their plans in Very Loud Voices so that Sutherland, who by the stroke of fate is also in the abandoned lighthouse, hears everything. Being a psycho, he plans on killing the husband himself, framing Bridges for the crime, and then blackmailing the girlfriend into marrying him. Of course he talks all this to himself so that the audience will both know his plans and that he is indeed a psycho.
From this point on, the movie becomes a mess of cliches, even messier than the swamps in the Louisiana county. You can predict every subsequent development all the way to the surprisingly dull climax. The movie ends with Bridges and his soon to be wife walking hand in hand down the road to their country estate in the sunset. Evil triumphs over evil and life continues on in the Louisiana county just as it always has.
And some people wonder why folks in Louisiana have nicknamed their state “Lousyana.”