Tell Tale -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
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NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

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NEW YORK -- Any potential recipients of donated organs would be well advised to think twice, if you believe the movies' take on the subject. After all, judging by the seemingly endless Hollywood variations on the theme, that heart or kidney you get probably will have belonged to a murderer whose spirit will take over your body.

Or a murder victim, according to "Tell Tale." Its main character is Terry (Josh Lucas), a single father with a seriously ill young daughter (Beatrice Miller) who has recently undergone a life-saving heart transplant. Besides that lucky break, he also is beginning a new relationship with his daughter's beautiful physician (Lena Headey).

Unfortunately, his happiness is short-lived as he suddenly finds himself compelled to murder a series of complete strangers in brutally violent fashion. When he learns that his heart came from a recent murder victim, he figures out that the organ is exacting revenge on its previous body's killers. When the cynical, hard-drinking detective (Brian Cox) who led the unsuccessful investigation of the case gets wind of the strange goings-on, he offers not only moral support but also an unregistered gun to further the process along.

"Tell Tale," which recently received its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, could have been dark, gleeful fun. But director Michael Cuesta ("L.I.E."), working from an original screenplay by David Callaham (rather loosely inspired by Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"), plays things all too straight, giving the proceedings a somber, lugubrious tone that only highlights their general absurdity.

It's too bad because there are some truly nifty plot twists along the way and a genuinely thrilling climactic sequence in which Terry nearly becomes an unwilling organ donor himself. And the performances are effective, with Lucas investing his portrayal with a powerful intensity and Cox delivering a pungent turn as the hard-drinking detective.

Production: Social Capitol Films, Scott Free, Artina Films, Oceana Media Finance
Cast: Josh Lucas, Lena Headey, Brian Cox, Beatrice Miller, Pablo Schreiber, Dallas Roberts, Tom Riis Farrell
Director: Michael Cuesta
Screenwriter: Dave Callaham
Producers: Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Martin Shore, Christopher Tuffin, Michael Costigan
Executive producers: Robert Salerno, Matthew E. Chausse, Gordon Steel, John Baca, Malcolm Reeve, Michael Ellenberg, Dave Callaham
Director of photography: Terry Stacey
Editors: Kane Platt, Billy Rich
Production designer: Patti Podesta
Costume designer: Mary Claire Hannan
Music: David Buckley
No MPAA rating, 92 minutes