CRUEL AND UNUSUAL
Watchtower/Cruel and Unusual offers Mihalka the best budget he has ever had to date and he does wonders with it. There is some particularly beautiful and impressive location scenery despite being set in Seattle, the film is in actuality shot a little further up the coast in the somberly beautiful area of Vancouver Island, where Mihalka does a fine job of capturing the verisimilitude of a small fishing town.
Mihalka also generates the psycho-thriller elements rather well. Tom Berenger is not a standard psycho he is a character who is much more ambiguously shaded than usual (and contains one of Berengers best performances in some time). The central triangle between Berenger, the troubled Tygh Runyan and Runyans sister Rachel Hayward is well developed in terms of jealousies, doubt and manipulation, into which is wound the interesting background theme of all three characters abusive childhoods. Mihalka occasionally slips the cuts from Tom Berenger producing his switchblade to fish being gutted are crude, and the films climax is unremarkable. However, there are fine scenes like the chess game between Tom Berenger and Tygh Runyan where Berenger tells what his novel is about where it gradually becomes apparent that what he is telling is the story of his own abused past, and where all the tension in the scene is denoted by the aggressively amplified slamming of the chess pieces onto the board and the swinging of a rosary in his hand.
(Nominee for Best Cinematography at this sites Best of 2001 Awards).