Review: MONOCHROME (2016)

A detective tracking down a serial killer. Between movies and TV shows, it’s been done to the point of cliché. Writer/director Thomas Lawes film MONOCHROME actually finds an interesting twist to the formula. Unfortunately, the end result feels more like the setup film for a cable series than a feature film.

Emma (Jo Woodcock) is left homeless and broke when her boyfriend is arrested for his part in a massive fraud. She ends up working as a housekeeper for a well-known artist Roger Daniels (James Cosmo BRAVEHEART, HIGHLANDER) in return for room and board. He’s abusive to the point of making her wear a tracking collar. He also ends up dead by her hand.

Inspector Gabriel Lenard (Cosmo Jarvis, LADY MACBETH) is put in charge of the case. He has a condition called synaesthesia, (it’s a real thing, I checked). To quote Psychology Today, “Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., vision). Simply put, when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time. This may, for instance, take the form of hearing music and simultaneously sensing the sound as swirls or patterns of colour.”

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The idea is, of course, that his odd perception of things will pick up on clues and connections others won’t. And he’s going to need all the advantages he can get, as Emma is leaving a trail of dead, wealthy assholes in her wake.

MONOCHROME actually has a lot of going for it. Synaesthesia, which also plays a role in Sound of Violence, makes for an interesting addition to the standard detective plot and can be creatively represented on the screen. Thankfully, it’s treated fairly seriously and not simply used as a cheap gimmick.

Jarvis and Woodcock both give good performances. Jarvis has the right look for the part as well as the acting chops. He’s primarily known as a singer, but could easily make acting a full-time gig. Woodcock gets the rare enough role of a female serial killer, even rarer in that she’s not some black widow seducing and killing for money.

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Despite all this though the film’s pacing and restrained on-screen violence seem more suited to the small screen. The amount of MONOCHROME’s nearly two-hour runtime devoted to setting up Lenard and the film’s final scene both feel like the lead-in to a TV series as well.

I didn’t dislike MONOCHROME, I just found it a bit slow and pedestrian at times. Fans of detective shows, especially British shows, should be happier with it, however.

Thomas Lawes’ MONOCHROME premieres on VOD and DVD this June from Gravitas Ventures.

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