Who Killed Maggie Moore(s)? review — Comedy crime thriller worth seeing for Hamm and Fey, not much else

Directed by John Slattery | Written by Paul Bernbaum | 99 min | ▲▲△△△ | VOD and Digital

Mad Men fans will likely recognize the filmmaker’s name instantly. John Slattery is the actor-turned- director who was Roger Sterling on that show, which he starred on (and directed episodes of) with Jon Hamm, who’s the lead here. Also starring is 30 Rock doyenne Tina Fey, where Hamm was a frequent guest star. You’ve gotta think this is one of those projects where friends just wanted to work with friends.

That warmth seeps into this modest, sometimes bloody little crime thriller with a plot best described as  implausible, occasionally reaching for Coen Brothers absurdity but not really coming anywhere close. What makes it shine, intermittently, are Hamm and Fey, who work their familiar camaraderie into a sweet love story behind the low-rent thriller stakes.

Hamm is Jordan Sanders, Police Chief of an American desert town. He’s looking into the death of a woman named Maggie Moore (Louisa Krause), her body found burned in a car. We know who did it — her husband, fast-food franchisee Jay (Micah Stock), like an even dumber Jerry Lundegaard, hired a thug (Happy Anderson) to rough her up when she threatens to divorce him. The thug went overboard. Then Jay gets the bright idea of murdering another woman named Maggie Moore (Mary Holland) to cover the previous crime.

The Chief gets some help from his deputy, played by Ted Lasso‘s Nick Mohammed, who seems an odd choice for this role — a Brit for some reason a law enforcer in an American small town — though he’s pretty funny in it.

However, the plot around these characters is terminally unengaging — we get to know a few terrible people who do ridiculous, stupid, or awful things and we see how that works out for them. The writing isn’t close to as quirky or shocking as it should be, and while Slattery isn’t opposed to moving his camera a little, he doesn’t bring much to the visual party that feels original.

That leaves Hamm and Fey, who plays Rita, Jay’s neighbour, to lift this material. Their characters find an easy rhythm — he asks her out even though he’s still grieving the passing of his partner, and she’s deeply and maybe unhealthily self-deprecating — it’s a nice vibe between them. If you’re a fan of either of these performers, their scenes together are a delight — it makes you wish the whole movie was just about their dynamic and the multiple murders some weird subplot that we check in on from time to time.

The lesson here is for Hamm, Fey and Slattery: Next time out find a better script — a genuine romrom, maybe — to capitalize on the charm the actors have together.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.