This one is for my Atlanta friends. How many of you remember “The Morning X”, the morning show on 99X hosted by Steve Barnes, Leslie Fram, and Jimmy Baron? In 2003, Steve Barnes would leave the radio station and one of the first things he did was work on this movie here. Now Fred Toucher, one of the host of the new 99x morning show, would endlessly rag on this movie and when it was released on DVD, actually tried to hold a screening for it but it was cancelled (I think they received a cease and desist letter). Anyways, I wound up picking up a copy because..well, why not. So here is today’s movie, No Witness.
The plot: Two men burst into a man’s home, threatening a man and his wife but while they are threatening the couple, a third man, Paul Arkadian, enters the house and proceeds to shoot the two men, as well as the couple, and then stages the scene to make it look like they all killed each other. As the police arrive at the crime scene and discover a meth lab in the basement of the house, the lead detective, Mark Starnes calls D.A. Tanner Reynolds to tell him what happened. The next day, Mark Leiter contacts Senator Gene Haskell to point out the story in the paper and Haskell asks Leiter to get Paul to take care of his other problems. Haskell then heads downstairs where his wife and daughter are having breakfast with Celeste Cartier, the daughter of some friends that they took in when her parents died. After his wife leaves to take their daughter to college, as well as a brief separation from being married to him, Haskell finds Celeste upstairs in his bedroom and she is excited to think that she will soon be his wife as the two end up having sex. Meanwhile, Leiter meets with Paul and pays him for the job and then hands him information on a new job, which Paul accepts and then leaves to begin surveillance on his new target. Leiter heads to Haskell’s campaign office to meet with Haskell but during their meeting, Celeste shows up at the office and Haskell tells Leiter to leave. When Haskell is alone with Celeste, she tries to get him to leave with her for dinner but he tells her he can’t as he has to meet a judge for a meeting and she gets upset, calling him a selfish bastard as she leaves. During his meeting with Judge Harper, Haskell sees a news story about his being indicted by the D.A. Harper warns him that the D.A. is not going to give up and will keep digging but Haskell does not appear worried. Meanwhile, Paul follows his target to a strip club and after driving around and casing the place, he heads inside and begins watching his target. Back at the restaurant, Celeste shows up to see Haskell but she is stopped by Leiter, who tries to get her to meet Haskell later in private but when she refuses, he signals security to escort her out of the building. D.A. Reynolds, who happens to be eating at the same restaurant, calls his driver to find out more about Celeste, then heads up to speak with Haskell and Harper for a minute. Leaving the restaurant, Leiter tries getting the full story out of Haskell and offers to take care of Celeste but Haskell says he doesn’t want the girl killed but when he gets home, he finds a message written on the bathroom mirror and quickly calls Leiter and tells him to keep her out of sight for a few weeks. Leiter contacts Paul and tells him the job and Paul goes out and starts following Celeste, unaware that she is also being followed by Reynold’s man. After watching her change her clothes and hair, Paul follows her to a night club, where he strikes up a conversation with her and convinces her to leave with him. Getting into his car, Paul knocks Celeste out with some chloroform and takes her back to his place, where he locks her up in a large dog cage. When she comes too, Celeste starts yelling at him to let her out but Paul ignores him as he grabs a fake police badge and some guns and heads out to finish his previous job. Heading back to the strip club, Paul calls in on a police radio that an officer has been shot, then sneaks in the back door and waits for the police to arrive, using the distraction of the police to kill his target. The next day, Haskell seems unnerved by the death and tells Leiter that he is worried about retaliation from a man named Archie Garnett but Leiter says that they can shift the blame to Reynolds and use that to buy them some time to clear up the indictment. Later, Leiter is grabbed by two men and taken to see Archie, who proceeds to beat him up as a warning not to mess with his family, who were the men that Paul had killed. Leiter meets with Paul and after paying him for the last job, gives him a new one to kill Paul, then asks about Celeste to make sure she is ok. Later, Celestre tries to find out more information from Paul but he doesn’t talk to her and leaves her in the cage as he goes to take care of Archie. Meanwhile, Haskell can’t get Celeste out of his head and asks Leiter to work it out so he can see her that night. Paul voices his objections, but relents and calls Paul who tells him he can’t as he is handling the Archie job so it will have to be the next day. Paul manages to break into Archie’s place and kill his body guard but Archie manages to get the drop on him but doesn’t kill him, as he wants to know who hired Paul, which gives Paul enough time to turn the tables on Archie and kill him. The next day, Paul gives Celeste some food then takes a call from Leiter to find out where to bring her but when he gets off the phone, he finds that she has managed to pick the lock on the cage and escape. Paul goes looking for and catches up to her as she ducks into a pool hall to get away. Celeste manages to convince some men there to help her and they get in a fight with Paul, allowing Celeste to escape. Celeste makes her way to Haskell’s campaign office, where she finds Haskell there and he embraces her and goes to comfort her. The two end up talking and Celeste says that she wants to be his wife and that they can hire the guy that held her hostage to kill his wife so that she can marry him and Haskell agrees to do it. Meanwhile, Paul meets with Leiter and tells him that Celeste got away and after ranting about it, Leiter calls Haskell to tell him only to learn that she is there. Haskell tells Leiter to meet him at his office and then tells him to take Celeste shopping for a dress for the fundraiser but due to a miscommunication, Leiter thinks Haskell wants him to have Celeste killed. Leiter takes Celeste to Paul and knocks her out, then tells Paul to kill her and as they leave, he calls Haskell to say it is over. Paul takes Celeste to an alley to kill her but she manages to knee him in the balls and escape, eventually running into the building that Haskell is giving a fundraising speech. Paul chases after her and catches her when she hides in the men’s restroom and kills her. As he goes to leave, Haskell enters the restroom and Paul kills him, then plants the gun in Celeste’s hand to make it look like she shot Haskell and then himself. He leaves the restroom, and runs into Reynolds, who enters the restroom shortly afterwards and sees the bodies and quickly calls for help. Later, Leiter is berating Paul for killing Haskell as he was his boss but when Paul just walks off, Leiter gets into a car that Judge Harper is in and says that Paul is their guy, which Harper seems pleased with.
This is definitely what you call a low budget thriller. Jeff Fahey (Haskell) and Corey Feldman (Leiter) were ok but Marissa Petoro (Celeste) was kind of all over the map. As for Steve Barnes (Paul), well I think Fred Toucher said it best back in the day when he called it robotic. The plot was a little confusing, as you don’t really know why Paul is being hired to kill Archie and his brothers and the whole issue with Celeste just came across as weird. They tried pretty hard to make it suspenseful but the mood honestly just fell flat and the action scenes were to brief to make up for it. I did like the scenery as it was fun for me to see all the local places and be like “I’ve been there” or “I know where that is”. All in all, this probably won’t make it on anyone’s must watch list but if you are a former 99x listener and curious to see what Barnes left radio to do, then you should give it a try.
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5