Let's Kill Ward's Wife

2015 - 82 minutes

Rated: R

Directed by: Scott Foley

Written by: Scott Foley

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Scott Foley, Amy Acker, James Carpinello, Dagmara Dominczyk, Marika Dominczyk, Donald Faison, Greg Grunberg, Nicollette Sheridan

Everyone knows that murder is totally hilarious and perfectly acceptable if the victim is a selfish, spiteful jerk. That’s the moral of Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife, an ethically-confused black comedy that carelessly brushes away the darker elements and is completely tone-deaf in its attempts at gallows humor.

Ward’s wife is Stacy (Dagmara Dominczyk), a boisterous shrew who ruins her infant son’s christening before the title card even pops up. Writer-director Scott Foley paints her as a cartoonish villain, a sociopath that’s destroyed the will of poor put-upon Ward (Donald Faison). The perpetually nagged husband’s friends casually joke about killing Stacy during a golf outing that Ward is forced to bail on. One of the guys, out-of-work TV actor David (Patrick Wilson), seems a bit more serious than the others: entertainment reporter Tom (Foley) and personal trainer Ronnie (James Carpinello).

Stacy’s henpecking finally gets the best of her when she catches Tom in the middle of a secret phone call with an actress (Nicolette Sheridan) interested in an affair. He slams her face into her son’s birthday cake, and then strangles her. Now the friends, and their supportive significant others, need to come up with a plan to get away with murder.

Foley’s one darkly comedic joke – that this group of L.A. suburbanites is so calm about the slaying – is carried out for the entirety of the final two acts though it wears thin almost immediately.  When focus shifts to covering up the dirty deed, the crew dutifully goes about their jobs cleaning the scene and formulating a plan to make Stacy disappear. After all, they see Ward as the true sufferer and he’s now healed of what ailed him.

There’s no conflict to overcome other than not getting caught and no real threat from within the group dynamic. In fact, murder is a tie that binds. The women who live come off about as well as the one who dies. Tom’s wife Gina (Amy Acker) is turned on by her husband’s homicide and their sex life goes into overdrive. David’s estranged wife (Marika Dominczyk) is impressed by his take-charge swagger and reconciliation seems likely. Talk about a couple of keepers – at least according to Foley.

We have no sympathy for any of these well-heeled Angelinos, nor do we have any real derision. They just kind of go through the motions – Ward’s urinating on his wife’s corpse notwithstanding. When Ronnie starts to crack a bit, he’s quickly calmed, his doubts rendered pointless in the grand scheme. So is the snooping of Ward’s cop neighbor (Greg Grunberg), who’s desperate to be part of a social circle.

Foley gives us some twisty looks at how the cover up is planned and executed, presenting them as if we should be rooting for these clowns to get away with it without any irony. It’s not that they’re vacuous and self-centered; they deserve to be rewarded. The audience certainly is not contented by watching them, with the hijinks never conjuring any satisfying slapstick or giving rise to the slightest twinge of morbid curiosity.

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