Poor old Ward, his wife is a bitch. She won’t let him play golf with his friends. His friends hatch a plan to kill her and free Ward from his domestic cage.
Horrible Bosses was a very successful film, it’s sequel not so much, and Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife is perhaps its bastard child. Set in a peaceful American suburban landscape, this dark comedy is an ugly debut from actor and director Scott Foley.
The narrative is nothing too imaginative and of course it’s one that is immediately familiar to vast swathes of its audience. Ward (Donald Faison) is a hen-pecked, unhappily married man. He has a young son and he still hangs out with his high school friends. However his wife (Dagamara Dominczyk) makes his life hell and prevents him from having fun, living his own life, and regularly guilt trips him into agreeing with her.
Walt’s mates are a journalist called Tom played by Scott Foley himself, out-of-work actor David (Patrick Wilson), and pseudo personal trainer Ronnie (James Carpinello). They are collectively a good looking bunch and their lives are ones of privilege. In fact their choices and actions throughout the film reflect this too and they have little respect for anyone other than themselves.
The trio of buddies jokingly discuss killing Walt’s wife. This becomes a reality in a bizarre sequence of unplanned events and the film becomes a dark comedy that consistently fails to deliver. It’s vapid entertainment and it plays to the worst of our expectations. Our privileged suburban men (with wives in tow) spend a great deal of the film drinking wine, avoiding any sort of consideration of reality, and generally they seem bored and complacent.
This manifests in the style of the film too and the lazy, brightly lit direction does little to help. But there are moments that do work in Foley’s film and at times the satirical tone is convincing enough and it provokes laughter at the sheer ridiculousness of an unchecked series of events. There is little logic in what happens but at no point do our heroes seem fazed.
Convincing first act
The first act is convincing cinema. The shot patterns create a sense of distance and the lives of the characters are shown to be easy, moneyed, and lacking in challenge. This leads to boredom which in turn (obviously) leads to the death of Ward’s wife. It’s a dark premise and the setup does work but the film starts to unravel around the midpoint. Here the satirical tone is lost and in its place a vicious, judgemental and entirely implausible narrative surfaces.
Ward’s wife becomes ever more cartoonish and her overbearing monstrous personality becomes what is effectively the catalyst for the second half of the film – covering up her murder. But there is no moralising, in fact the film seems to revel in her death as though the label of bitch was enough to justify ending her life. They leave her corpse in the bath and Ward pisses on her. This aptly describes the level of crudity that replaces any sort of satire curated in the first act.
Which is actually a shame because at first glance this is an enjoyable film. The cast themselves are charming enough, the build up is tantalising, but as a whole the film fails to deliver anything on its inherent promises. The pacing and the logic behind the characters actions ensure that audiences will be left with little empathy and little interest in what’s going on on screen.
The disposal of the body presents problems for Foley’s film and it represents a distinct tonal shift. There’s little link between the opening moments and what happens at the end and the characters just muddle along making bad insular decisions together. The death of Walt’s wife has some odd repercussions too. It seems to magically heal Tom’s relationship with his wife (Amy Acker) and his murderous actions turn her on too.
The screenplay itself is lacking in depth and nuance. For a black comedy this is pretty unforgivable as it ensures that its humour never has a proper context. Instead we judge the characters based on our own understanding of them as Foley never provides any sort of convincing back story. This leaves us with a group of distasteful and unpleasant men, their quiet and happy to help housewives, and a murder that no one cares about.