You can't blame the real Chris Porco for trying to stop the airing of "Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story" (8 tonight, Lifetime). Murdering your father with an ax and attempting to do the same to your mother isn't something you want everyone to know about. And he's definitely right: this movie will not do great things for his reputation.
But here we are, another ripped-from-the-headlines film on the channel that specializes in them. It's a solid job, not one of the stellar efforts but the particulars of the case are compelling enough to carry it over the line.
The film opens in quiet Delmar, New York, where we see someone enter the home of the Porcos; dad (Lochlyn Munro) and mom (Lolita Davidovich) are sleeping. Mom wakes up just in time to see a hooded figure begin the butchering. When dad doesn't make it to work, the crime is discovered. Dad dies, but mom survives and clinging to life, nods in affirmation when asked if son Chris (Matt Barr) is responsible.
The person doing the asking is Joe Sullivan (Eric McCormack) who has known the family for years and Chris all his life. He doesn't seem to like Chris, who has a close relationship with Sullivan's daughter.
He brings Chris in and Chris denies the crime. He was away at school; someone even saw him jogging earlier that morning.
In flashbacks, we learn more about Chris' relationship with his parents. It seems Chris is a phony; he's been telling his friends at school that he's wealthy, and running up debts and stealing from his family to keep the lie going. And his grades are horrendous. Near the time of the killing, his parents are practicing tough love for Chris' transgressions.
But Chris is charming. He's not just a Romeo for young women his age, whom he sways to his side, but also to older women who see him as the perfect son. And when she recovers from her injuries, mom takes his side too. Because of her injuries she can't remember what happened, but the film suggests it could also be that she doesn't want to. Who wants to acknowledge rearing a sociopath?
The film focuses mostly on Sullivan, who becomes a pariah in town because of his zealous quest to convict Porco, and Porco, who spends most of his time manipulating everyone. Barr has the right square jaw looks be a low-rent seducer, but he's not charming enough to seduce the viewer into buying into his act too. The trick is to keep the audience guessing; instead Barr's Chris is so clearly a phony, his supporters look like dupes. McCormack always seems a little frustrated and determined in his roles, so the part works for him.
In the end, "Romeo Killer" offers a portrait of a disturbed young man, who even when he wasn't killing, had little regard for others unless they had something to offer him. It may not be a story that had to be told, but it is one that is interesting in the telling.