Nora Roberts' Angels Fall



9-11 p.m., Monday, Jan. 29

If the first of the four-movie Nora Roberts series on Lifetime is any indication, viewers can look forward to unspectacular stories in spectacularly scenic settings. In "Angels Fall," the production also gets a big lift from a sensitive performance from Heather Locklear that transcends the written page.

This is a tale about Reece Gilmore (Locklear), a talented and well-trained Boston chef whose car breaks down in a tiny Wyoming town. Stranded for at least several days, she agrees to work as cook at the local diner. She tries to keep her past to herself but, thanks to the Internet, that can't be done even in the middle of nowhere.

It doesn't take long before the townsfolk learn she was the sole survivor of a restaurant massacre. Then, as rotten luck would have it, she becomes the sole witness to a murder. When an investigation fails to even turn up signs of a struggle, even Reece starts to wonder whether she saw what she thought she did. Fortunately, there's Brody (Johnathon Schaech), an almost equally mysterious reporter-turned-mystery novelist, to reassure her and provide the requisite love interest.

From start to finish, the adaptation by Janet Brownell is riddled with implausibilities. When was the last time someone took a job while waiting for a car repair? And how many murderers take great pains to outline and explain their criminal activities and future plans in detail before they shoot their intended victims? The pause for storytelling is, of course, what saves the day.

Despite these considerable flaws -- as well as stunted character development and far too many identical cheesy flashbacks -- "Angels Fall" is watchable. For that, we have Locklear to thank. No longer a sex kitten but still a beauty, Locklear plunges into the role. She adds facial expressions and gestures that give the character texture and dimension. Supporting cast members chip in, as well, particularly Schaech in a straitjacket of a role, but it is Locklear's work that keeps the telefilm afloat.

Performances are crucial for director Ralph Hemecker, who operates here with a tight production budget. Eager to instill suspense and a touch of terror into the story, he overreaches at times, not only with the annoying flashbacks but also with perplexing close-ups of stuffed animals and overwrought scenes of dripping blood. The efforts are duly noted, though the impact is more tedious than tantalizing.

The other Nora Roberts movies, "Montana Sky," "Blue Smoke" and "Carolina Moon," are to be shown on successive Monday nights.

Mandalay Television and Stephanie Germain Prods.
Executive producers: Peter Guber, Stephanie Germain, Peter E. Strauss
Producer: Salli Newman
Co-producers: Tom Cox, Murray Ord, Jordy Randall
Director: Ralph Hemecker
Teleplay: Janet Brownell
Based on the novel by: Nora Roberts
Director of photography: Joel Ransom
Production designers: Chester Kaczenski, Andrew Moreau
Editor: Louis Cioffi
Music: Chris P. Bacon, Stuart M. Thomas
Casting: Susan Glicksman
Reece Gilmore: Heather Locklear
Brody: Johnathon Schaech
Rick Marsden: Gary Hudson
Lo: Derek Hamilton
Joanie: Linda Darlow
Linda-Gail: Lisa Marie Clark