I've never read a Patricia Cornwell book, but I know that she's beloved and well read, a best-selling author whose Kay Scarpetta character will be played in a movie by Angelina Jolie. (She also graduated from Davidson College and was a reporter for the Charlotte Observer.)
"At Risk" (Lifetime, tonight at 9) marks the first time one of Cornwell's crime novels has been turned into a TV movie, and it features her Win Garano character, a mixed-race Massachusetts State investigator, and his cold, calculating boss Monique "Money" Lamont.
Sounds good, huh? Nope.
It's a good cast. Garano is played by the very delicious (and here, Native American) Daniel Sunjata ("Rescue Me") and Andie MacDowell (does she still live in Asheville?) plays Lamont. The action starts when Lamont, aiming for a run for governor, pretty much coerces Garano to take on and solve a cold case to show off the effectiveness of her new crime lab. Investigating that crime leads to many places, and there's a subplot too; someone really doesn't want Lamont to be the next governor. Duke grad Annabeth Gish plays Sykes, a forensic investigator who helps out and has the hots for Garano. And the lovely Diahann Carroll is on hand as Garano's grandmother.
Andie MacDowell comes off best. Playing a steely driven woman surprisingly suits her. Sunjata, on the other hand, is wooden and his characater is just kind of unlikable. As Jennifer Aniston might put it, Garano is missing a sensitivity chip. He has a pattern of leading women on, although in his defense he seems sort of oblivious to their emotions. He pretty much orders Sykes to help him, continuously gets her to extend herself, and then, when she lets him in on her feelings, he brushes them aside, but still puts his arm around her as they walk away. Again, in his defense, the script doesn't really reveal why she would like him (except for the fact that he's beautiful) and it doesn't explain why he is so cavalier. To make it plain, the character is underdeveloped.
And, in the end, the mystery isn't all that interesting.
There's another Cornwell movie with the same characters on next Saturday. I'll put myself at risk and watch with the hope that it's better that this one.