Karla

Starring Laura Prepon and Misha Collins. Rated R.

A case could be made, I suppose, for producing a movie about Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, two of the most irredeemable characters ever to haunt this country. But Karla doesn't make that case.

The fact that this slapdash portrait of serial killers in love was shot in the U.S., where psychopaths are a much more humdrum affair, is only the beginning of its problems. The bigger concern is the movie's utter lack of depth, tension, or psychological insight-all serious crimes where entertainment is concerned.

The fact-based movie is also hobbled by several structural choices that eventually shade over from the aesthetic to the moral realm. First and most crucial is the decision to frame the narrative through ongoing interviews between Homolka (Laura Prepon, a convincingly blond look-alike) and the psychiatrist (Patrick Bauchau) evaluating her for parole at the eight-year mark. The script, from director Joel Bender and two others, sticks doggedly to TV-movie clichés. "I wanted to start over," Karla intones, recalling her decision to testify against her husband. "Oh, but you couldn't start over, could you?" is the good doctor's profound rejoinder.

No, she couldn't, doc. She had participated in the rape and murder of three teenaged girls, including her own little sister, ferchrissake. But between the colourless here's-what-happened approach and Prepon's surprisingly flat, facing-the-camera performance, Karla appears to buy Homolka's skew on events: that she was a kind of mixed-up kid dragged along on her husband's egomaniacal spree. TV show 24 regular Misha Collins is better as Bernardo, since he at least suggests ways in which charm can be used as a weapon. But it would have been smart to conjecture as to what drove him to such murderous raptures. And wouldn't it have been more interesting to show Karla both attracted to and repelled by Bernardo's fixations instead of just numbly stumbling through.

We may never know what really made this "perfect" couple go so bad, but a low-budget, dull-looking movie with American accents and L.A. playing Ontario is probably not the venue to learn about it. I'm not sure there's much to learn, anyway, but Bender and company don't even seem curious about the further reaches of human behaviour let alone the specifics of a case so horrific that few Canadians will even name their daughters Karla for many years to come.

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