On what seems to be its official website, The River King is described as being in the “Supernatural Thriller” genre. I describe it as an atypical murder mystery with elements of psychological thriller and police drama. Starring Edward Burns (Saving Private Ryan, 15 Minutes) as a smalltown police officer, Abel Grey, the story involves the drowning of a prep school boy, Gus Pierce, which, for whatever reason, seems suspicious to our main protagonist.
The supernatural aspect of the movie comes first from a young boy who appears, then disappears, in the woods near the river where the boy has drowned. Next, an odd smudge with the image of our dead boy appears in crime scene photos of the dead boy’s room. Of course, no one believes Officer Grey except for the odd, spinster-ish schoolteacher. And of course, she quickly becomes the love interest, even though she’s engaged to another schoolteacher, who’s kind of a jackass.
Officer Grey is haunted by the death of his brother that is somehow linked to Gus’s death. As well, Gus’s female friend, Carlin, is equally haunted by his death, but because she feels she was the cause.
Enough synopsis, I don’t want to give away too much of the story. Suffice it to say that I thought the story was quite well told, and overall the movie was very enjoyable. Although Ebert and Roeper manage to get away with thumbs up or down, and I generally leave my ratings at a handful of soda crackers, or saltines, I’ll try to do a little better than that this time; I’m trying to be a little more professional.
Ed Burns seemed to be acting a standard Ed Burns role, which suited this character well. The story itself worked hard at being mysterious and presenting the audience with information in new and different ways to maintain the mystery. Through a series of flashbacks and quick edits, we get Gus’s back story. As well as some insight into Officer Grey, the non-descript town of Hadden and the Hadden Prep School that somehow runs the town, even though, in Officer Grey’s words, “Nobody from town goes to that school.”
It took me some time to sort out the ending and what exactly happened and why it unfolded the way it did. But generally I followed the story through some predictable scenes and into some clever storytelling. 7.5 saltines out of 10.