Film Review: Grey Lady

Boston cop searches Nantucket for his wife's killer in this dank, slow-paced mystery.
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Twenty years ago John Shea made his feature directing debut with Southie, a gangster drama set in Boston. Now comes Grey Lady, a moody cop thriller from a story by Shea and producer Armyan Bernstein. It boasts a better-than-average cast of movie and TV veterans who are rendered powerless by an ugly, farfetched plot.

A grim opening in Boston finds tight-lipped cop Doyle (Eric Dane, once a fixture on "Grey's Anatomy") unable to save his cop wife (Rebecca Gayheart) from a taunting, vicious serial killer. Clues bring Doyle to Nantucket, where he takes a room in a boarding house before alienating every cop on the island.

Doyle stomps through Nantucket's scenic locations, barking questions and glaring in an approximation of grief. He tracks down an alcoholic aunt, Lola (Amy Madigan), opening long-festering family wounds and setting off further violence. Drugs come into play.

Doyle also meets Melissa Reynolds (Natalie Zea), an artist who bears a startling resemblance to his dead wife. Well, it would be startling if anybody noticed, but Doyle is too busy sulking to open up to her. Their halting romance is 100% chemistry-free.

Folk music, clambakes, fishing, boozy parties and fog-shrouded walkways provide local color. Also on hand are a pair of psychos given to drugging and mutilating their victims. The solution to the mystery requires untangling family relationships through false flashbacks and springing unexplained characters on viewers.

His features disguised by whiskers, the relentlessly dour Dane drags the film into a genre ghetto of misbegotten TV cop shows. His counterparts—Madigan, Carolyn Stotesbery and especially the capable and quick-witted Zea—provide the only sparks in what turns out to be a glum, improbable tale of incestuous affairs.

As director, Shea (who also has a brief cameo as the island's police chief) treats his cast carefully, often at the expense of logic and pacing. As screenwriter, he manages to make it look like 1990 on Nantucket, ignoring the social clashes that have wracked the island recently. His lovable folk artists and eccentrics are a slightly grittier version of the lunkheads in the long-running sitcom "Wings"—and just as believable.

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