There are multiple and serious problems with the adaptation of the second book of Iris Johansen's bestselling Eve Duncan crime series.
PROBLEM SET 1: What would possess anybody to adapt the 2nd book of a series, instead of the 1st? That's particularly an issue in The Killing Game, because even as a novel, it's only effective if you've already read Face of Deception; in some critical ways, these books are a single story arc, and by starting their adaptation in the middle of said arc, the producers have handicapped themselves with an almost insurmountable amount of exposition—and then left it all out!
I watched this with someone who hasn't read the books, and all I got were questions: Is that cop guy her brother? (No, he was a detective on her murdered kid's case—read Face of Deception.) Is that reporter her boyfriend? (No, just a reporter—read Face.) Is that kid her niece? (Just a kid that looks like the dead kid—you need to read Face) Wasn't the killer executed at the beginning?? (Yes! Watch the movie! Read Face!) Is this her rich father's house? (No!) Who owns this place, anyway? (great, they've left out Logan—read Face, you'll like Logan) Isn't Joe a cop? How stupid is he? Why can't he find this fancy estate? (because Galen—never mind, they've left Galen out, too. So apparently Joe IS stupid.)
Not only stupid, but miscast, which brings us to PROBLEM SET 2: The only characters in this entire fiasco that weren't desperately miscast were the 10 year old and the dog. It was depressing, how consistently miscast these actors were.
Laura Prepon has her admirers, I know; I'm willing to concede that she is talented within a clear and well defined range. JOHANSEN'S Eve Duncan is a deeply complex character who isn't within three standard deviations of Prepon's range, though. And were the producers too cheap to even buy a bottle of Clairol? The particular shade of blonde she was sporting was so unflattering as to be distracting even to the person who hadn't read the books (What's wrong with her hair? Is it supposed to be that color? How old is she supposed to be, anyway? Are you kidding, I thought she was supposed to be 40!)
It's fine when supporting actors like Ty Olsson are given a shot at the romantic lead, but this whole production would have been 90% better if Olsson had been cast as Mark the Reporter and Kavan Smith been given a shot at Joe Quinn; Smith is a more versatile actor and is actually a better demographic fit for the part, given that Joe is supposed to be 10-12 years older than Eve. But the utter lack of chemistry between Olsson and Prepon utterly doomed this production. The "love scenes" are so deeply squicky, I don't ever want to see either of those actors in a love scene again—with anybody, ever, ever, ever!
I am a Teryl Rothery fan. She's far and away the most capable and believable actor in this cast. I've been very skeptical about all of these Lifetime Movie adaptations (let's be honest, adulterations) of popular women's fiction, but I gave this one a chance specifically because TR is always watchable—which she was, even in this mess. Unfortunately, Sarah Patrick is supposed to be the same age as Eve—not old enough to be Eve's own teenage mother. There's just nothing TR can do about being 20+ years older than the character she's supposed to be playing, no matter how well she plays Sarah. She sticks out like a sore thumb, and makes you wonder why the whole thing isn't about her!
Brian Markinson can act, and isn't so much miscast as typecast. My friend who hasn't read the books took one look at him and said "He's a bad cop, right?" What the producers should have done was adapt Face of Deception and cast him as John Logan. He'd have been a fantastic choice as Logan.
And Naomi Judd Is by her very nature 500% too glamorous to be playing Eve's prostitute/drug addict mother, even if she could act, which she manifestly cannot.
PROBLEM SET THREE is just the final nail in the coffin lid: the MIA serial characters who are critical to the action.
John Logan, man of mystery, is a total and effective red herring in Face of Deception. Why not use at least THAT element? Even if all you keep from Face is his romantic interest in Eve and the fact that he owns the estate in AZ. Except that:
Logan's sidekick Galen is critical to the preservation of Joe's intelligence as a character. Without Galen running interference for Eve when she goes to Logan's place in AZ, Joe is left looking stupid—far, far too stupid to either be a cop, or be interesting to Eve.
Bonnie herself. Why eliminate Eve's psychic connection/conversations with Bonnie's ghost? Eve's latent and unadmitted-even-to-herself psychic gift has always been what set her apart from the general run of literary forensic heroines; the decision to just eliminate that who aspect of her character turned her into a flat, uninteresting cipher. Why maintain the pointless, useless character of Sandra, and dump BONNIE?!?
I'm afraid that this ridiculous attempt at "interpreting" a popular women's fiction title "for film" is the last straw for me and Lifetime's adaptations. It's been bad enough, how Mandalay has managed to mangle Nora Roberts—THIS is just insupportable.
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