'Cover Versions' Review: A Surprisingly Well-Executed Whodunit
Updated: Apr 15, 2018
A strong performance from Katie Cassidy anchors this surprisingly enticing thriller.
No matter how many have come before, it seems that Hollywood will never tire of a good murder mystery. And it appears that we have found ourselves another one. On the surface, Cover Versions may sound like your average straight-to-DVD thriller, but it's actually a thoroughly gripping whodunit that will keep you guessing right to the very end.
Written and directed by Todd Berger, the film focuses on the four members of the on-the-verge-of-making-it band Starfoxy. But when a murder occurs, the band is at the heart of the investigation, and literally nothing is what it seems.
In order to tell the story, Cover Versions employs the familiar genre convention of having all four members of the band recount the events of the previous day. But given their colorful personalities, and the looming presence of drugs and alcohol, none of them are particularly reliable sources. While each account adds a little bit more to the overall story, Berger does a great job of withholding information from the viewer, and only reveals it when it's necessary to driving the plot forward. This proves to be rather useful, in more ways than one, as it relays the information without giving too much away. Each account is satisfyingly different from the one that came before, thus the film manages to avoid any unnecessary exposition — I mean, it can't be expository if it's not true, right?
The only real issue with this format is that, due to all the unreliable narrators, we never truly find out who each of the characters really are. Sure, we know what their motivations are, but other than what we're outright told, we don't actually know that much about them. And thus, some of them end up feeling a little underdeveloped. However, the strong plotting and convincing cast performances make up for this.
While all of the cast deliver, it's Katie Cassidy who really stands out — turning in a strong performance as the band's lead singer, Jackie. She portrays the multiple iterations of Jackie incredibly well, characterising each one with unique qualities but ensuring that she's still recognisable enough in each respective recollection. Austin Swift also achieves this in convincing fashion, while Drake Bell and Jerry Trainor do the same with slightly less material.
While the format does verge on being rather repetitive, each retelling of the previous 24 hours is so satisfyingly different, that it never feels like we're watching the same story twice. Everything in Cover Versions is expertly designed to make us think one thing when it's really saying another. Even the film's intro titles throws us off the scent. The credits play over Starfoxy's aesthetically pleasing "Castles" music video, which is every bit as glam and grungy as you'd expect. But, ironically, the film turns out to be nothing like this. Instead, we are told multiple tales of betrayal, mistrust and self-glorification. And due to this expert storytelling, I was prepared for everything and still didn't see the ending coming.
In a world already overcrowded with murder mysteries, Cover Versions manages to make its own original contribution. The story is less about the murder and more about who each member of Starfoxy really is. While we are left with a few unanswered questions, it doesn't take away from this entertaining story.
Overall, the talented cast do a great job with a well-executed plot that is designed to catch you off-guard. And if you don't enjoy the film, the experience is worth it just to have "Castles" stuck in your head for days.
Cover Versions is out on Digital Now.
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