One of California's most infamous unsolved killing sprees has been turned into an uninvolving grind by director Alexander Bulkley and his co-screenwriter brother, Kelly Bulkley. "The Zodiac," based on the string of murders that terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s and '70s, stars Justin Chambers as a Vallejo police inspector who becomes obsessed with cracking the case, to the detriment of his family.
The film opens with the killing of a high school couple on a first date parked on an isolated road. Chambers' Matt Parish is put in charge of the investigation and is soon facing more murders and the written taunts of the killer. At home, his wife Laura (Robin Tunney) waits, as depicted by numerous shots of her performing domestic duties. The movie is so transparent that when Laura picks up a glass vase it's only a question of how long before something or someone startles her (but not the audience) and it crashes to the floor.
The would-be psychological thriller devolves into a plodding domestic drama as Parish increasingly shuts out his family while becoming more baffled. As the Parishes' son Johnny, Rory Culkin mopes through the film doing the spooky-silent kid thing he did to much better effect in "Signs." Johnny is as obsessed by the case as his father, but nobody really notices or cares.
Unfortunately, the film lacks the suspense and drama to carry the psychological burden placed on it by its makers. Plot strands are dropped like so much lint, and it ends so abruptly that you wonder whether the filmmakers ran out of money, ideas or both.
MPAA rating: R for strong violence and language
A ThinkFilm release. Director Alexander Bulkley. Producer Corey Campodonico. Screenplay by Kelly Bulkley, Alexander Bulkley. Director of photography Denis Maloney. Editor Greg Tillman. Costume designer Stephanie Portnoy. Music Michael Suby. Production designer Jack G. Taylor Jr.
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.
In selected theaters.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun