Movie Review: Cole Hauser and Morgan Freeman chase “The Ritual Killer”

“The Ritual Killer” trots out Morgan Freeman as yet another expert involved in a serial killer case. And for his benefit, the screenwriters discovered a grabby hook to hang this thriller on, an arcane subject for his character’s expertise.

The murders, traced from Rome to Clinton, Mississippi, are connected to a dark corner of traditional South African folk medicine, “Muti.” It can involve “ritual” cutting and use of body parts in witchcraft. That was actually the working title of the film, “Muti.”

That star and that hook have promise. But promising or not, the result is a straight-up B-movie with two main locations and six credited screenwriters struggling to make sense of a story that has Cole Hauser as a guilt-ridden, trigger-happy cop on the case when the villain jets in to BFE Mississippi to continue his spree.

The lesser players — most of the young actors playing tween and teen victims — are wincingly amateurish.

Murielle Hilaire sports a hard-to-trace accent as Detective Luke Boyd’s (Hauser) partner. The “captain” he’s always storming out on is that Swedish marvel Peter Stormare. So, Clinton must be in the cosmopolitan corner of Mississippi.

As you might guess, flicking pointlessly between Italy (Giuseppe Zeno plays the Italian cop on the case) and Mississippi with young people getting kidnapped and hacked up and cops getting slashed and stabbed makes for a somewhat disorienting movie.

Thankfully, Freeman doesn’t bother with a Lesotho accent. One can only guess what sort of language he used between takes of scenes showing his exchanges with the few students who take his class (not “natural” actors). And Hauser plays a somewhat recognizable “type,” the loner cop who lost everything and isn’t shy about being detective, judge and executioner when he storms in on a child abductor/molester.

“Do you think anybody misses Ted Bundy?” is his excuse.

The villain is a Seal-scarred African named Randoku (Vernon Davis, better than his makeup). There’s a rich white guy (Brian Kurlander, who gives the kid-actors here a run for their “acting school refund” money) backing our ritual killer.

The cluttered, disjointed story makes one certain that a magazine story/oral history about the making of “Muti/The Ritual Killer” would be more entertaining than the movie they finished and are releasing. What sort of nutty compromises were reached to get financing here, there and everywhere, and round up this cast? Did it start life as an Italian thriller, or Mississippi tax incentive project, or both?

At least Freeman has a few moments, and Hauser has aged into a fine dad-bodied man-of-action. It’s a pity they’re stuck in messes like this, without even an on-location Roman vacation to show for it.

Rating: unrated, bloody violence

Cast: Cole Hauser, Morgan Freeman, Murielle Hilaire, Giuseppe Zeno, Brian Kurlander, Peter Stormare and Vernon Davis

Credits: Directed by George Gallo, scripted by Bob Bowersox, Francesco Cinquemani, Giorgia Iannone, Luca Giliberto, Jennifer Lemmon, Ferdinando Dell’Omo. A Screen Media release.

Running time: 1:31


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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4 Responses to Movie Review: Cole Hauser and Morgan Freeman chase “The Ritual Killer”

  1. John says:

    Just watched “Ritual Killer” and I’m lost between words and lmao. The worst attempt at acting in the worst script if you even want to call it one . Looking back at Yellowstone and how he managed to draw watchers to his character “Rip”. Now that I know he clearly cannot act ,it’s obvious that what is drawing about him is ” saying only a few tough words and physical acting but more then three words and he gets terrible fast . A pointless movie of stupidity and no direction .The ending of Hauser eating the eyeballs had me laughing .If he was smart ,he should of never released this film . A definite carreer dive and eye opener in his inability to act .

    • Roger Moore says:

      I channel surfed by “Good Will Hunting” last night, and there he was — in all the promise of handsome, bit-player youth, seventh banana to Matt and Ben and Robin and Stellan and Casey and Minnie Driver. Cole Hauser’s worked a lot, but the big breaks never came and in the end, all he can fall back on is a middle-aged dad-bod version of his good looks, and making bad movies with Mel Gibson and in this case, Morgan Freeman.

  2. Mississippi Hippy says:

    BFE Mississippi?? This looks like your review of this movie is out in BFE too. Because no one is reading it. I read it because I’m from Mississippi. Whenever Mississippi is involved, you people cannot get through your job of critiquing a movie without saying something negative about Mississippi. And FYI, Clinton is not a “cosmopolitan corner” of Mississippi. At least before you write a review for the public, do your research a little bit before you just speculating things because the wording sounds good to you.

    • Roger Moore says:

      Yeah, no. I’ve made multiple car payments just on the traffic for this review. Yes, I know”BFE” and “Mississippi” are redundant. Sorry you can’t see what the rest of us do. Corrupt, backward, racist Mississippi has many a BFE in it. Only a rube wouldn’t recognize “cosmopolitan” and “Clinton, Mississippi” in the same sentence as “irony.” As in “The police chief is from Sweden,” etc. Stop giving “Hippy” a bad name.

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