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The Killing Jar -- Film Review

The Bottom Line

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Taking place entirely in a rural, roadside diner over the course of one fated evening, "The Killing Jar" is a cliched, talky variation on the 1936 Bogie classic "The Petrified Forest," with scant dramatic tension but gallons of spilled blood on the menu.

Director-writer Mark Young, who seems to be aiming for a vintage pulp vibe overlaid with post-Tarantino violence, proceeds to dish out a bland thriller with reheated characters and stock dialogue that's as crisp and fresh as yesterday's chicken and biscuits.

In limited theatrical release through New Film International, the no-budget film is destined to turn up sooner than later at the bottom of the DVD bargain bin.

Taking her cue from Keri Russell's character in "Waitress," Amber Benson's Noreen is a world-weary waitress who never has been anywhere other than the Copal Grill.

But things turn out to be other than business as usual with the arrival of a sadistic stranger (Michael Madsen) with an itchy trigger finger the others address as Mister who just might be the psycho who murdered a family of four in a nearby county.

Or could the actual culprit be the seemingly friendly, widowed salesman (Harold Perrineau), or the tough but quiet Hank (Kevin Gage), or even Jimmy (Danny Trejo), the grouchy manager who's perpetually pushing out pies from the kitchen?

Although the film's body-count setup proceeds to whittle down the list of suspects, there never is any crucial mounting of suspense, other than trying to determine when and if a particular patron is ever going to stop talking.

Trapped in their one-dimensional characters, the assembled cast obligingly plays their overly familiar parts without attempting to bring anything unique to the table.

The only authentic aspect of "Jar" is the venue itself, an actual, abandoned diner with its well-worn contents tangibly intact.

Opened: Friday, March 19 (New Films International)
Production: Morningstar Pictures
Cast: Michael Madsen, Harold Perrineau, Amber Benson, Jake Busey
Director-screenwriter: Mark Young
Executive producers: Serap Acuner, Edward Bass, Christopher Beatty, Wynn Davis, Ron Gell, Nesim Hason, Sezin Hason, Harold Perrineau, Brad Rothschild, Straw Wiseman
Producers: William Boyer, Patrick Durham, Jonathan Sachar, Mark Young
Director of photography: Gregg Easterbrook
Production designer: Chris Best
Music: Elia Cmiral
Costume designer: Ginger Knussmann
Editor: Mark Young
No rating, 90 minutes