April 30, 2021 Murder Bury Win (Movie Review)
Is it a bear trap or a nail clipper that is the weapon of choice in Murder Bury Win? Well that, friends, is something you will just have to learn for yourselves when you check out the Comedic Thriller, which arrives to On Demand beginning Tuesday, April 27, 2021 thanks to Gravitas Ventures.
The film marks the feature debut of Writer-Director Michael Lovan (Japan in a Day documentary 2012), who centers his story around a unique murder mystery board game. Created by three friends—pessimist Chris (Mikelen Walker: Rebel series, All American series), “gentle soul” and optimist Barry (Henry Alexander Kelly: The Divisible short 2019, Mystic short 2020), and Adam (Erich Lane: Criminal Minds series, Dear White People series), the overly eager man in the middle— Murder Bury Win, the game, is kind of like a reverse Clue: you’re given your choice of victim and weapon, but watch out for unforeseen circumstances as you try to dispose of the body. Morbid? Absolutely! But, as the trio is quick to point out, who hasn’t fantasized about killing someone?
Well dreams do come true! Desperate to get their work published and out to the public, the friends entertain a phone call from an anonymous entrepreneur (Craig Cackowski: Veep series, Drunk History series) with a potential interest in providing financial backing. But first he wants to meet the guys at his unassuming cabin in the woods, and, spoiler alert, it’s not going to end well. In fact, real life soon mirrors their fictional game—and only one of the men can win.
It might seem like a potentially hazardous premise for an indie film, but Murder Bury Win is careful to keep it simple. By sticking to a small yet stellar cast to deliver its amusingly macabre screenplay, and setting the majority of its action in one location with only a few rooms, Writer-Director Lovan manages to offer his audience a truly enjoyable experience. He and his cast effectively transport their viewers into the comedic chaos of the ridiculous situation, distracting from any of the film’s pitfalls as well as its small budget.
In fact, the biggest issue, so far as we can see, would be that the game at the center of the film is not developed beyond its premise: Find the perfect victim then find the perfect murder weapon, don’t ever stop the pursuit, and there’s only one winner. The game itself is actually intended to have some oversights for the sake of the storyline, but as it’s presented the movie-goer cannot get a full grasp of how it would play out on Friday night game night. We get enough of an understanding to roll with the concept, but a further description would have made the story even stronger—and opened up the screenplay to even more preposterous humor.
This, admittedly, is a bit nitpicky, as Murder Bury Win really does not suffer from the glaring oversight that so many of today’s films do. Instead of focusing on minutiae or fancy set dressing the film is ruled by its cast and their diverse talents. Its trio of starring actors—Walker (Chris), Lane (Adam) and Kelly (Barry)—play off each other’s strengths to deliver a bumbling trio of accidental criminals. Lane’s eerily smiley sociopath Adam and Walker’s morally conflicted Chris are two peas in a deranged pod: each willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their end goal. However, what ultimately sets the pair apart is that Chris can relate to Barry’s “gentle soul.” Like his kind-hearted, emotional friend, he wants to see the good in the world, but he has too much of Adam’s self-centered greed to ever fully embrace his inner optimist.
Leading the group, Walker gives a stupendous performance in the role of Chris. Able to harness and communicate the desperate desire to publish the game, while also showing the hesitancy necessary to relay regret, he does an exceptional job with the serious subject matters throughout the story. But it is the funny moments where he truly shines: from fangirling over V.V. Stubbs to his awkward interaction with Officer Dan (Brian Slaten: Happy 40th 2015, Chicago P.D. series). While some comedians excel at infantile humor (Adam Sandler) or absolute ridiculousness (Jim Carrey), Walker tackles this ludicrous situation with a graceful believability that makes Murder Bury Win even more amusing.
Lane and Kelly are equally talented. Lane does a phenomenal job of being the creepy hype-man who is desperate for success at any cost. Many of the brutal laughs come thanks to his delivery (and machete), while Kelly presents the moral compass of the group. Not to be overlooked, Director Lovan makes an appearance among the cast, and Slaten does his best Deputy Dewey as Officer Dan. Similarly, Cackowski does a phenomenal job of bringing the eccentric V.V. Stubbs to life, envisioning him as a kind of Willy Wonka of board games.
It’s not all severed limbs and lye, though. There are some important issues that nudge their way into Murder Bury Win’s screenplay, from the theft of creative property to the statistical likelihood of this crime being perpetrated against BIPOC. It is a topic that needs to be brought further into the spotlight, so it’s nice to see that Lovan included it in his film. And while he hints at involving the police being a nightmare in and of itself, that’s one hot-button issue that incites more violence than a murder wall.
Creating an indie film with a cast of nine individuals cannot be an easy undertaking, and creating one on a small budget with a tiny cast is apt to be even more difficult. Thankfully, and to its writer-director’s credit, Murder Bury Win has a strong enough screenplay to thrive and conquer. Coupled with an exceptional cast who truly embody the quirkiness of the situation, the film vanquishes many of the pitfalls that so many others fall prey to. As it stands, it is an exceptional feature debut for Lovan and a splendid addition to the resumes of its cast, from whom we expect to see great things in the future. Still unsure how you kill someone with an ear of corn, Cryptic Rock gives Murder Bury Win 4 of 5 stars.