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Adrienne (Anna Hutchinson) is a PR agent running her own agency, developing a strong reputation for herself with her strong work and dedication to taking on clients she can passionately fight for. So when she learns about how celebrity Carly Nicks (London Vale) has been murdered and her husband, down-and-out actor Gareth Nicks (Mark Lawson), is believed to be her killer, Adrienne finds herself tempted to help him navigate the scandal—largely due to the strong relationship they had in college together.
But as Adrienne reluctantly agrees to represent Gareth, she finds herself taking flak from all sides for her unpopular decision. With Gareth hounded by gossip reporter Nikki Leone (Cassandra Nuss) and his late's wife rapid fans and Adrienne being estranged from her sister/housemate Emily (Shara Connolly), Adrienne realizes standing up for Gareth will be tougher than she thought—and might even come at the cost of her own life.
The world of celebrity gossip is rife with drama, and Lifetime finds a way to capitalize on that in Killer Reputation, which acts as part emotionally driven drama, part murder mystery. As Adrienne finds herself caught in the crossfire as a result of coming to Gareth's defense, she also finds herself investigating to find who really killed Carly. With the mystery unwrapping slowly along with Adrienne and Gareth's shared experience being pursued by the paparazzi and drama regarding their past relationship Killer Reputation juggles its' plot threads gracefully, with all the threads culminating in a well-earned climax. There's also a surprising moment of comedy sandwiched in during the film's third act regarding Gareth and a hospitalized woman (makes sense in context), which almost seems to serve as a special treat to viewers in need for something different with their Lifetime fare.
Acting wise, Anna Hutchinson delivers a likable performance as compassionate but no-nonsense PR rep Adrienne, making it clear that for her dedication to finding justice for Gareth and stand up for her clients, she's not willing to let her career or Gareth's dilemma endanger the lives of her loved ones. That, coupled with her tragic backstory, shapes Adrienne into a proactive and strong-willed protagonist, and her chemistry with Mark Lawson makes the both of them doubly easy to root for. As for Gareth, Lawson viscerally depicts Gareth's emotionally turbulent journey throughout the film, making you sympathize with him, even as his temper and hurt feelings regarding his past with Adrienne make you wonder if he's truly as innocent as he claims to be.
Shara Connolly also strings depth into Emily's "Heroine's Troubled Sibling" archetypal character, and Cassandra Nuss is unabashedly self-centered and nasty as tabloid mudslinger Nikki Leone. Melissa Ponzio from Cheerleader Nightmare also appears as Adrienne's level-headed business partner Ramona, serving as a nice moral compass for Adrienne as she struggles with the complexity of her situation with Gareth.
WARNING: Spoilers below
Charles Hittinger also appears as Gareth's stunt double friend and initial champion of innocence Ian, who plays his character with a compelling amount of depth as his attitude towards Gareth changes over time and he begins to become protective over Adrienne. However, when the climax rolls around it is revealed that Ian is actually Carly's killer, his character unfortunately becomes far too standard and loses that sense of edge. Not only might the twist be ruined for the knowledgeable Lifetime viewer (having seen Charles Hittinger in Stalked at 17, my alarm bells were ringing even before the movie began), but his reason for turning against Gareth and destroying his life is well played out and doesn't help with Ian's quick descent into cliche villainy. While it never truly ruins the film's conclusion, it's disappointing Lifetime couldn't have found a more clever reason for Ian to be so hellbent on destroying Gareth's life.
Overall, despite its' flawed execution, Killer Reputation stands up as a solid thriller with great acting and characters, as well as a well-handled climax and resolution (albeit the aforementioned formulaic reveal). It may not top anyone's Top 10 lists for Lifetime movies, but Killer Reputation is far from a dud you can't enjoy a few times over a lazy weekend.
Score: 6.5 out of 10 British sorcerers.