The River King Nick Willing

There's nothing more gothic than winter in Nova Scotia. (I should know; I survived 23 of them.) Even in daylight, there's something eerie about the silence that comes with the first snowfall.

It's the perfect place to shoot Nick Willing's new mystery, The River King. Ed Burns plays Abel Grey, a cop living in the north-eastern township of Hadden, U.S.A. When local student August Pierce is found frozen in a river, Abel's chief bows to political pressure and calls it a suicide. But Abel believes it's a murder.

The River King is book-ended by some beautiful imagery: an elliptical landscape montage, August Pierce's wide-eyed face suspended in ice, and Carlin (August's best friend) swimming in a newly thawed river near the spot where August died.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the story moves at a snail's pace. So when the twist - or should I say, double twist - comes, it seems so heavy-handed that you feel cheated rather than moved. There's a chasm of difference between the director's intentions and the actual effect.

Ed Burns is best when there's a possibility of romance in the air; he was born to play a romantic lead. So his emotional reckoning with father Ernest (played perfectly by Sean McCann) seems flat. While McCann turns on the waterworks, Burns reacts like they're talking about dinner plans.

In the same way that something's not right in Hadden, something's not right with the film. And like winter in Nova Scotia, The River King is cold, relentless and far too long. (Alliance Atlantis)