The 1996 TV movie “The Colony” should not be confused with the 1995 John Ritter movie of the same name; nor the 1964, 2009, 2013, or 2015 movies, all with the exact same title. This is about the lives of wealthy Malibu residents, and how a murder affects them all. The area where most of them live is referred to as “the colony” two or three times, but aside from that (which barely makes sense in context), the title is nonsensical, and dumb. The working title, “The Malibu Branch”, is the much better, more attention grabbing title. Is the awful title indicative of the whole production? Does a title really warrant this much analysis? The answer to that last question is, hell yeah they do! For the answer to the former, continue reading.
The plot is a pretty interesting murder mystery-
When a prominent psychologist is gunned down at the beach, it sends ripples throughout the community. As undercover cop Mick (Brian Bloom) chases a few leads, he also starts seeing Molly (Jennifer Guthrie). Molly is the new nanny (and best friend) to Julia (Alison Moir) and Alec (Michael Pare). Alec is in a rivalry with his own cousins for business domination of the titular colony. Sawyer (Casper Van Dien), his gal pal Tam (Denise Kerwin), and the other bored rich kids look for thrills any way they can (ie- drag racing, etc). All the while, a string of break-ins, on top of the murder, have the residents on edge. Are the break ins and the murders connected? Did the teens ratchet up their games to deadly levels?
Upon inspection, you’ll probably notice a certain pattern emerging in Van Dien’s early work- this is a sort of combination of “Kill Shot”- the PCH is even mentioned!- and “Night Eyes 4: Fatal Passion”. For me though, this is much more entertaining than either of those two.
Director Tim Hunter keeps the intrigue high throughout, and the conclusion (no spoilers!) really works. The set designs are only so-so, and yet again, we have a production that just looks like it belongs on the boob tube. But, the script by Richard and Esther Shapiro, and John Whelpley, is very engaging. They keep all the plates spinning well enough, with evidence popping up here or there, to keep the murder investigation on track. The dialogue is also very natural sounding and fun.
Michael Pare is his usual badass self! He fits the role of a mob boss type well, and his chemistry with Moir is good. Moir isn’t bad, but she doesn’t bring much emotional weight to the role. Bloom, as the undercover cop, is a lot of fun. He is quick with a one liner, and is believable as both a poor mechanic, who has to fence stolen property to get by, and as a cop. As the ostensible audience surrogate, Jennifer Guthrie is warm and compassionate, but she doesn’t quite deliver on some of the heavier moments. Denise Kerwin has an easy-going charm that makes her instantly likeable. Casper Van Dien is very fun, and he is quite believable as the de facto leader of the rebellious youth. His character also inadvertently kicks off the second half of the investigation in a really enjoyable scene.
Yes this is a pretty short review, but A) I don’t want to spoil too much, and B) there isn’t a ton to say. This is a competently directed, well written, satisfyingly acted made for TV movie; now, if only the title were better.