In a based-on-a-true-story whodunit filmed gorgeously in Northern New Mexico and featuring an engaging storyline, Making a Killing is definitely an entertaining way to spend 106 minutes of your life. Beyond that, though, don't look too hard for profundity.

In fictional Cardinal County (which looks an awful lot like San Miguel County), priest-mayor-mortician-possible coin collector Arthur Herring (an affable Mike Starr) and Vincent, his brother who looks nothing like him (Jude Moran) seem pretty shady—well, as shady as a sweetheart priest and his baby-faced sidekick can be. They have an amorphous entanglement (which involves mason jars of gold teeth) with recently paroled pedophile Lloyd Mickey (Great Scott! It's Christopher Lloyd!).

When Lloyd is killed, investigator Orlando Hudson (Michael Jai White, who is beautiful, but who you probably know from nowhere unless you've seen stripper flick Chocolate City or 1997's Spawn) is called in to crack the case. There's also a fine contribution from Aida Turturro, best remembered as Tony's insufferable sister Janice from The Sopranos—here only slightly less obnoxious as Connie the diner waitress.

So, there are a lot of characters. There are many, many more very important (?) people we didn't even mention there. Thing is, though, we learn virtually nothing about any of them. Vincent acquires slight depth as we move along, but other than that, the characters remain cardboard cutouts of archetypes. But it's kind of okay, because the action-packed plot clips along fast enough for us to not really care too much.

We get the feeling writer-director Devin Hume (whose previous credits seem heavy on morticians and Westerns) has never actually heard cops talk to one another, but the jauntiness of those campy scenes overruled the improbability. Not to mention that the climax of the film comes in a scene drenched with monsoon rains, which was particularly soothing in this dry winter; then it ends on a note where it seems the writers were like, "So, think No Country for Old Men—but silly!"

This one's fun and aesthetically pleasing—if nothing else.

6
+Engaging story; beautiful NM landscapes
-Stilted acting; rampant stereotypes

Making A Killing
Directed by Hume
With Herring, Hume, Turtutto, White and Lloyd
The Screen, NR, 106 min.