WARNING: This review contains spoilers if you have not watched ‘The Capture of the Green River Killer’.
Directed by Norma Bailey
Written by John Pielmeier
Adapted by John Pielmeier from the book ‘Chasing the Devil: My Twenty-Year Quest to Capture the Green River Killer’ by Dave Reichert
Starring Thomas Cavanagh (Dave Reichert), Amy Davidson (Helen ‘Hel’ Remus), Jessica Harmon (Natalie ‘Nat’ Webley), John Pielmeier (Gary Ridgway), James Russo (Jeb Dallas), John Fasano (Joe Jakes), Sharon Lawrence (Fiona Remus), Ingrid Rogers (Faye Brooks), Currie Graham (Captain Norwell), Zak Santiago (Seth Imperia), Christina Lindley (Lynn Mosey) and James Marsters (Ted Bundy)
Detective Dave Reichert is put in charge of a Task Force assigned to track down a serial killer who is targeting young women, mainly prostitutes, in King County, Washington, and who dumps most of the bodies in or near to the Green River. The case becomes an obsession for Reichert over the next nineteen years, as the killings continue and his investigations leads him up a succession of dead ends.
‘The Capture of the Green River Killer’ is based on the serial killer Gary Ridgway, who carried out his first killing in 1982 but was not captured until 2001, by which time he had killed at least 48 women, many of them just teenagers as young as 16 years old. He claims to have killed 71 women and some people think the total is even higher than that. Dave Reichert was a leading member of the Task Force formed to track down the “Green River Killer”. In 1997 he was appointed Sheriff of King County and subsequently has become a member of the United States Congress.
The film, which was made for the Lifetime Movie Network, has a running time close to three hours and was shown in two parts. It is based on a book written by Dave Reichert about the case. How closely the film adheres to the book and how closely the book adheres to the events of the long investigation I do not know. The film does not, for example, directly refer to Robert D Keppel, who as well as working on the investigation into the Green River killings, was also involved in the investigation that led to the arrest of another notorious serial killer, Ted Bundy. It was Keppel who interviewed Bundy in prison as part of the Green River investigation. In the film Bundy is interviewed by Reichert and an FBI profiler known as ‘Seth Imperia’, whose inaccurate profile of the killer is given as one of the reasons why it took so long to finally apprehend Ridgway, who was actually first interviewed in connection with the case as far back as 1983. Keppel has stated in interviews that the FBI profiles were not, in his opinion, damaging to the case.
Ted Bundy, played uneventfully by James Marsters, makes a cameo appearance in the film, which is largely concerned with Reichert’s investigation and his obsession with the case, and with two fictional characters, Helen ‘Hel’ Remus and Natalie ‘Nat’ Webley. This is where the film starts to unravel a little bit. These characters are used to give the film an extra emotional layer and to show how women as young as sixteen could have ended up working as prostitutes and become victims of Gary Ridgway. This is fine, but Helen Remus, who acts as a narrator throughout the film, is portrayed as a probable victim of the killer and comes back as a ghost presence to haunt the investigation. That doesn’t work particularly well for me.
The progress of the investigation is generally done very well, because it is portrayed as being very mundane. Mistakes are made, the investigation constantly ends up hitting a brick wall, and there are no heroics. The film does become seriously overwrought in the last half-an-hour or so as Reichert utilises advances in DNA forensics to finally establish evidence linking Ridgeway to the crimes, but the film does seem to have a genuine desire to make it clear that none of the victims deserved to die, something it makes a point of emphasising at various junctures during the three hours.
Although it certainly has its flaws, I am glad I watched this film.
I recognised Thomas Cavanagh from ‘Scrubs’, but I guess American audiences would perhaps associate him more closely with the television comedy-drama ‘Ed’. Amy Davidson was previously one of the lead cast of the sitcom ‘8 Simple Rules’. Gary Ridgway is played by John Pielmeier, who also adapted Dave Reichert’s book and wrote the screenplay.
The film (or miniseries, as it seems to be referred to) was watched by two million viewers when it was shown on Lifetime television in March 2008, a new audience record for the network
Review posted 2 February 2010