9 March 2002 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Brilliant premise, so-so film
"Murder in Reverse" has the most fiendishly clever premise I've encountered in all my years of movie-watching. The plot outline listed for "Murder in Reverse" on this IMDb site is inaccurate, so I'll give you the set-up:
The crimelord of a London gang is murdered, his corpse is defaced, and the evidence points to dock labourer Tom Masterick. Unable to prove his innocence, Masterick is sentenced to a long prison term. Then, through the prison grapevine, Masterick learns the truth: the crimelord wanted to disappear and start over, so he staged his own murder and is living under a new identity, after framing Masterick for a crime that never took place. But now that he knows the truth, Masterick can't convince the authorities that the "murder" victim is still alive. Unable to get justice, Masterick plans revenge.
After a long sentence, Masterick is released from prison, aged and embittered. Now Masterick intends to do precisely what the Home Office insists he has already done: HE WILL MURDER THE MAN HE HAS ALREADY BEEN CONVICTED OF MURDERING. He will commit a "Murder in Reverse".
Think about it: what can they possibly do to this poor bloke? If Masterick gets caught, he can't be convicted twice for the same murder ... or CAN he?
Unfortunately, after setting up this brilliant premise, "Murder in Reverse" loses steam. The ultimate payoff is unsatisfying, with a too-obvious twist. The old- age make-up on William Hartnell is crude and obvious. Petula Clark and Dinah Sheridan (sharing the role of Masterick's daughter, before and after his long bowl of porridge) give excellent performances: Petula Clark's success as a singer has always obscured her very real talents as a dramatic actress.
"Murder in Reverse" has much to recommend it, but not quite enough to make this movie the first-rate suspense yarn it very nearly could have been.