The Kid Detective is a noir crime drama with a fascinating protagonist and an absolutely mind-blowing climax. What begins as a story about a washed-up investigator in a small town takes a dark turn with several stunning reveals. The plot builds tension with a slow boil. There are points in the film where you wonder what the heck is actually going on. But the downbeats are skillfully placed. Setting up vital clues for a final act bombshell that will leave audiences reeling.
The Kid Detective takes place in the seemingly sleepy suburban town of Willowbrook. Adam Brody stars as Abe Applebaum, a private investigator in a serious life rut. He drinks heavily, does copious amounts of narcotics, and is oblivious to the day of the week. His parents (Wendy Crewson, Jonathan Whittaker) worry as his life spirals out of control. His goth office secretary (Sarah Sutherland) considers him a joke. Abe Applebaum is a broken man in every sense of the word.
The film flashes back to twelve-year-old Abe’s (Jesse Noah Gruman) astonishing success as a detective. He was a prodigy. First solving trivial school thefts, then graduating to bigger local crimes. The town treated him like a celebrity. Everything changed when Abe’s friend and schoolmate, fourteen-year-old Gracie Gulliver (Kaitlyn Chalmers-Rizzato), vanished without a trace. Everyone expected Abe to solve her disappearance, but he couldn’t. The failure destroyed his confidence and standing in the community.
In the present, a local teen is found viciously stabbed to death. His girlfriend, sixteen-year-old Caroline (Sophie Nélisse) hires Abe to find his killer. Abe, at this point a local joke, takes the case with hopes of grandeur. Everyone around him warns this is a grave mistake. He’s not qualified or capable to solve such a horrific crime. Abe’s search into the boy’s life leads to a sinister conclusion. Willowbrook’s darkest secrets are finally brought to light.
Adam Brody mesmerizes as a lost soul struggling to reclaim glory. The Kid Detective takes the time to establish Abe’s character and background. His stumbles are both tragic and hilarious. There are laugh out loud, cringe-worthy moments. The guy is in epic free fall. Abe questions everything about himself. He thought he had talent and purpose, but was it all hubris? Did he peak in childhood? Abe’s reckoning with his abilities forces him to re-examine his past. He realizes that arrogance may have led to critical mistakes in his youth.
Director/writer Evan Morgan is brilliant in his feature film debut. He establishes a daunting mystery without resorting to theatrics. There’s no smoking gun moment or obvious villain. Abe has to do the groundwork, be a thorough investigator, to understand the scope of what is happening. This is no easy feat while fighting his significant personal demons. Morgan explores multiple themes with a deft touch. He sprinkles breadcrumbs for Abe, but let’s the character evolve to figure out their relevance. The result is an ending that will knock your socks off.
The Kid Detective is a diamond in the rough. It’s a small film that deserves to be seen. It takes a while to heat up, but delivers on all fronts once it does. Avoid spoilers at all costs. The final scenes hit like a freight train. I had to watch it twice to truly absorb the impact. The Kid Detective is a Canadian production from Woods Entertainment. It will be released theatrically in the United States by Sony Pictures on October 16th.+
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Film critic, raconteur, praying for dolphins to grow thumbs and do better.