Jesus Vargas
Created by Chris Peirson and William Peirson

Who says there are no more B-films? A Killer Within, a surpringly effective straight-to-DVD release gets it all right, from strong, well-crafted characters to a solid little plot with some great twists and some genuinely creepy moments.

High-priced Dallas lawyer Addison Terrill is put through the wringer when his beloved (but screwy) wife Becky is murdered and his young four-year-old son is attacked one evening, and the killer leaves the words "We're even now" scrawled across his bedroom wall.

Terrill's convinced the killer is Sonny Bruton, a recently released serial rapist he originally helped convict in his days as an assistant D.A. But the police have another suspect in mind: Terrill himself.

Despite the advice of his partner and best friend, Sam Moss, Terrill decides to track down the killer on his own and ends up relying on the reluctant aid of JESUS VARGAS, a disgraced former police officer now working as a private security guard who bears no great love for Terrill. It turns out the attorney was instrumental in having Vargas kicked off the police force for falsifying evidence and breaking the law. To which the angry Vargas, never far from the chip on his shoulder, responds, "Whose law? Some dead white guy law?"

But the uneasy team-up between the stick-up-his-ass, Dr. Pepper-swilling white bread attorney and family man (he actually at one point admonishes his wife "You know I can't stand any lies or prevarications in my life.) and the scruffy, foul-mouthed semi-alcoholic gum-chewing Hispanic gumshoe (expertly played by Giancarlo Esposito, who even brought his own hat to the role) is a compelling one. I love the way his character can't quite let go of being a cop -- his rundown apartment is filled with files from old cases, and as much as he hates Terrill, he hates killers escaping justice even more.

As mysteries go, this one does what it's supposed to, but it's the characters who are definitely the best part here. Esposito isn't the only one who shines -- C. Thomas Howell is perfect as the uptight, upright boy scout attorney and Ben Browder and Dedee Pfeiffer as Sam and Sarah, the childless couple who are the Terrill's neighbours and closest friends, add an emotional depth to the film I hadn't expected. Mark Hanson is eerily menacing and animalistic as the rapist and suspected killer, and Sean Young gives a delightfully bitchy performance as the sexually adventurous wife and ticked-off reluctant mother ("Careful, sweetie, Mommy's wearing Pravda.) It's almost a shame she isn't used more.

There's a satisfying ebb and flow to the plot as it whipsaws back and forth between the ritzy, high-priced world of Dallas mansions and cutthroat bars, hot sheet motels and all-night coffee joints in the barrio, and if the action occasionally falters, the sharply-defined characters stand up well, thanks to a solid script by first-time scripter Chris Peirson, herself a Dallas attorney.

But that Vargas? Man, I wouldn't mind seeing him again.



Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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