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Murder of a Cat

Murder of a Cat

Clinton Moisey (Fran Kranz), the man-child in Murder of a Cat, calls his sleuthing alter ego Doghouse Reilly, after Philip Marlowe’s jokey alias in The Big Sleep. This choice sums up the tone of Christian Magalhaes and Bob Snow’s screenplay (on the 2010 Black List), which sprinkles hard-boiled detective jargon onto a comic mystery that mostly reveals Clinton’s obliviousness to the world outside his mother’s basement. Director Gillian Greene’s debut feature plays up these elements with Deborah Lurie’s full-throttle film noir score, but she never gets heavy-handed, even when things take a dangerous turn.

The death of his beloved Mouser (played by a cat named Bogart) triggers Clinton to leave his comfort zone and begin investigating, albeit in a bathrobe instead of a trench coat. Immune to social cues and prone to grand pronouncements, the petulant Clinton is indulged by Sheriff Hoyle (J.K. Simmons), who’s more interested in courting his kooky mom Edie (Blythe Danner). Fellow cat lover Greta Chaplinski (Nikki Reed) initially sees him as a different kind of private dick, and after they join forces to identify Mouser’s killer, their relationship is plagued by misunderstandings. Even Clinton’s perceived nemeses view him as little more than a pest.

Murder of a Cat has an off-kilter charm, with Greene prizing humor over menace, and Clinton’s maturity over plot resolution. She allows events to unfold through his eyes, but not entirely from his perspective, so if Clinton shifts his outlook just a little, he can finally see beyond his blinders.

Review by Serena Donadoni
Released on December 5, 2014
First published in The Village Voice, 2014.

Murder of a Cat is available on Amazon Prime