Crime + Punishment in Suburbia, written by Larry Gross in the early 1990’s and directed by Rob Schmidt in 2000 is supposed to be a loose adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment. “Loose” is the key term here, however, since the similarities nearly come to an end moments after the title fades from the screen. In the novel, the main character is named Roskolnikov. In the movie, we have Roseanne Skolnick (Monica Keena), who is the daughter of Maggie (Ellen Barkin) and step-daughter of Fred (Michael Ironside). Neither of these characters would win parent of the year. Fred’s flaws are that he is snarky and drinks too much, while Maggie’s flaws are that she hates her husband and leaves her daughter alone with him far more often than any sane parent would.
Rounding out the cast are Roseanne’s boyfriend, Jimmy (James DeBello turning in the best performance of the movie); Maggie’s lover, Chris (a young, charismatic Jeffrey Wright); and Vincent (Vincent Kartheiser) who is absolutely obsessed with Roseanne. He dreams about her, follows her and her boyfriend wherever they go, and takes literally hundreds of photographs of Maggie from the midst of as many types of bushes as he can find. In other words, Vincent is a borderline psychopath, so it is quite the surprise when Roseanne befriends him.
On one of the nights Maggie is out on a date with Chris, Roseanne is raped by Fred. She is able to convince her boyfriend to help her kill her step-father without understanding that her mother will be held responsible for the murder.
The movie is dark and stylish, and the best parts of the film come through the unobtrusive, interesting direction and editing. Michael Ironside, Ellen Barkin, and Jeffrey Wright are able to add some weight to the trite script. James DeBello, though, easily eclipses all others by bringing depth and heart to the role of the school tough guy.
Unfortunately, it is the sort of movie that creates more questions than answers. How is it possible Maggie doesn’t suspect her own daughter is the murderer? It couldn’t be more obvious. Why would Vincent like a girl like Roseanne when she is the sort of girl who would like a jerk like Jimmy? How could Roseanne see anything in Vincent? He is obviously creepy and possibly dangerous and she knows it. Why call it Crime + Punishment if all you really got from the source material is the title? Did the most interesting scenes end up on the cutting-room floor? The scenes that are most anticipated (Maggie and Fred finally confronting each other, Roseanne and her mom discussing the murder, Roseanne discussing the murder with the police, and several others) are mysteriously non-existent.
Is it a bad movie? Not completely. There are a few strong performances, and the entire film has a nice, broodingly dark quality to it. Is it a good movie? Absolutely not. It is most likely to leave you scratching your head.
The only bonus feature is English subtitles.