Murder of a Cat is perfect for people who like silly, relatively obscure, low-budget indie movies. I’ve always had a soft spot for such films. In the days of streaming, you’re most likely to encounter them on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or another such site as many never even make it to theaters. Murder of a Cat was released in 2014 but is the kind of movie that is likely to get most of its views as people discover it streaming, as I did on Amazon recently.
Murder of a Cat was directed by Gillian Greene, who, according to IMDb, has only directed one other film, a short. It stars Fran Kranz (who’s appeared in a couple of suspense thrillers, Cabin in the Woods and The Village) as Clint, an awkward young adult who lives with his mother and a cat named Mouser. Given the film’s title, it’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that the cat is murdered early on. As an arrow is sticking out of the animal’s body, it clearly was murder.
Clint teams up with Greta (Nikki Reed), a young woman who oddly lives in a retirement community, giving haircuts to seniors in exchange for rent. It turns out Mouser secretly lived with Greta half the time, so they unknowingly shared ownership of the cat. Murder of a Cat’s best-known actor is J.K. Simmons, who plays a lightweight version of his typical tough guy roles, in this case, a cop who’s also dating Clint’s mom.
The plot is silly and complicated, involving an unstable chain store owner and a couple of shady employees running a fencing scheme out of the store. Leonardo Kim (more recently in Westworld) is both funny and menacing as unhinged hoodlum Yi Kim. This brings up a recurring theme of Murder of a Cat, the uneven shifting from comedy to suspense and drama. This isn’t always handled smoothly and sometimes the attempts at humor don’t work, as when Clint “jokingly” tells someone that his mother has AIDS. Of course, if you’re a hardcore animal person (which I basically am, but not to the degree that I can’t appreciate some dark humor), you won’t find the whole premise of someone shooting a cat with a crossbow amusing.
Despite its imperfections, I appreciate the fresh energy of movies like Murder of a Cat. I also have to respect the people who make movies that have little chance of large-scale commercial success. I’ll go out of my way to see this type of film while snubbing anything related to superheroes, Star Wars, or any franchise. I suppose these smaller movies may achieve some type of cult classic appeal, but even there the odds are not great. So I have to believe the motive was simply to make an entertaining and original film that isn’t completely predictable.