Lizzie Borden Took An Ax (2014)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Genres: Courtroom Drama, Crime Drama, Drama, True Crime
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Nick Gomez Nick Gomez
Christina Ricci Christina Ricci
Clea DuVall Clea DuVall
Gregg Henry Gregg Henry
Stephen McHattie Stephen McHattie
Shawn Doyle Shawn Doyle

5.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: August 26, 2016
Lizzie Borden took an ax,
and gave her mother forty wacks.
When she saw what she had done,
she gave her father forty-one.

I'm sure we're all familiar with this fun little playground diddy. Given the alleged murderer's reputation, it's amazing that she's not used more often in movies.

Back in 1892, the Bordens are a wealthy family living in Fall River, Massachussets. Money aside, the family isn't exactly the most well-liked throughout the town. Mr. Borden is a skinflint who commonly cheats his workers out of their wages and his second wife is a cold woman who's not well exactly known for a sunny disposition. She's particularly at odds with her two step-daughters. The older of which, Emma, is a decent person; Lizzie, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. Despite her position teaching Sunday School, she's prone to shoplifting, fits of destructive rage, drinking at parties and holds no regard for her parents' opinion. Naturally, her wild antics are a constant source of friction within the family. That is, until Lizzie walks into the parlor one afternoon and finds her father with his skull bashed in with an ax. Likewise, her step-mother has also been brutally murdered in an upstairs bedroom. After listening to her story, prosecutor Hosea Knowlton notices several discrepancies in Lizzie's story. He quickly comes to the conclusion that Lizzie herself is the murderer, and resolves to bring her to justice.

Instead of a doing a straight-forward period-piece court drama, Nick Gomez opted for a more stylistic approach, and despite it's late 1800s aesthetic, it has an incredibly modern feel to it. The soundtrack is made up of dirty, southern rock music, and there's a party scene early on that would have perfectly at-home if it was set in a club and the cast redressed in mini dresses. I actually really liked this approach, as it gave the movie a fun, tongue-in-cheek feel that was a perfect foil to the court scenes, which were played straight. With that said, he didn't quite take this approach far enough. More specifically, it needed to be extended to Lizzie herself. Sure, they touch upon her independence and unwillingness to go with the social norms, but they didn't go far enough in this direction. In fact, when things begin to go south during the investigation, she completely loses it, and the cold, manipulative woman she was is replaced with complete hysteria. Not only was it a jarring shift in the character, but it had a pronounced ripple effect on the movie itself. Instead of Lizzie becoming a part of that modern foil I was talking about, now she's something of a bifurcated character that threw the foil theme off-kilter.

With that said, Christina Ricci handled the two sides of the role very nicely. Again, that cold side was a much more entertaining role to watch her pull off, but she's had plenty of experience playing emotional wrecks and left nothing to be desired on that side of table either. Still, she might have been outshone by Clea DuVall. As Lizzie's sister Emma, DuVall didn't have the luxury of a sociopathic character to mask the brunt of her parents' gruesome demise and her sister's apparent guilt, and her despair was at full height. DuVall absolutely nailed this role. Likewise, I was very happy with Gregg Henry's take on the prosecutor, Hosea Knowlton. While the driven prosecutor hellbent on proving their defendant guilty is something of a cliched trope, he definitely did it justice.

I can see what they were trying to do, but they weren't quite able to pull it off. They just tried going in too many directions at once, and it left the whole thing flat on the ground. It has its moments, but I don't think I'd go out of my way to give it a full recommendation. 4.5/10.
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