Smalltown reporter Jessie St. Clair (Rachael Leigh Cook) has stumbled across the story of her career. A stripper and a prostitute have been murdered. Before committing the murders, the killer sent each victim a video tape of him stalking her. With the help of her producer, Jane (Annabella Sciorra), and her cameraman, Rob (Kip Pardue), Jessie sets out to try to solve the case but when she receives a videotape that indicates that she might be the next victim, she quits her job and vanishes.
Then, Albert Bodine (Cary Elwes) shows up in town. Albert says that he’s the anchor of the UK’s top true crime show, American Crime, and that he wants to investigate not only the two murders but also Jessie’s disappearance. When both Rob and Jane are suddenly fired by their station, they reluctantly agree to work with Albert. Albert soon proves himself to be so incompetent that his new colleagues start to wonder if he’s actually who he says he is. Meanwhile, another videotape turns up, this one starring Jane.
The tone of American Crime is all over the place and it never seems to be sure if it wants to scare us or if it wants to make us laugh but there are some tense scenes and a good twist ending. American Crime tries to strike a balance between being a horror/thriller and a satire of media sensationalism. It doesn’t always succeed but you really haven’t lived until you’ve seen Cary Elwes play a sleazy tabloid reporter. Imagine an even more hyperactive version of Robert Downey, Jr’s performance in Natural Born Killers and you’ll have some idea of what Cary Elwes does in this movie. Elwes sweats profusely, bulges his eyes, speaks with an extremely affected English accent, and plays with his hair every time he passes a mirror. Everything sets him off, from his camera falling off of its tripod to people questioning his journalistic credibility. Though the movie does feature good roles for underappreciated actresses like Rachael Leigh Cooke and Annabella Sciorra, Elwes is definitely the best thing about and the main reason to watch American Crime.