The "Rosary Murders" does an admirable job of tackling one of film's most unyielding subjects. It is extremely difficult for non-Catholics & Catholics alike to understand the vow of silence taken by Catholic confessors when human lives are at stake. Perhaps only another priest can identify with the agony faced by Father Donald Sutherland when he hears the confession & learns the identity of a murderer who has every intention of murdering again. Unlike many recent crime sagas, the film makes its victims real & it does not sweeten the character of the killer by showing him as a nice guy flawed with sexual & psychological quirks. It does fall prey to the movie cliche of the pretty woman who falls for the priest, & it also drags in the bombastic Detroit pastor with a mind lock on arbitrary problem solving which clouds his understanding of church law.
As portrayed by Charles Durning, this egomaniac is to Catholic priests what Shelley Winters is to Jewish mothers. The stereotype does exist, but in a film which strains away from the obvious in so many other ways, its inclusion is both unimaginative & regrettable. The acting is otherwise quite good, Elmore Leonard's complex script based on William Kienzle's novel is directed with subtlety by Fred Walton, and the details which give the film its density are very well chosen.
© 2007 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 12/27/06
The Rosary Murders
USA - 1987