There is one thing to know right away about 'Killer in law,' or as it's also known, 'Killer grandma': Nana Visitor is an absolute delight. It doesn't matter the role or the nature of the feature she's in; Visitor has an irresistible, joyful charm about her that's altogether entrancing. And whether in her primary recurring part in 'Star Trek: Deep Space 9' as Kira Nerys, or in other movies and series over the years, she's also very well demonstrated great range, dexterity, and otherwise skill. She enhances any character beyond whatever is written for her, and so long as Visitor is on our screen, our entertainment is guaranteed.
I'm not sure I can say the same for the rest of the film. But we'll get back to that shortly.
This isn't just any TV movie - it's a Lifetime original movie, and that tag carries particular connotations and liabilities. Unsurprisingly, the writing is extremely direct; we've barely met any of the characters before very conspicuous scenes begin to proliferate. The course of events is very predictable for anyone that's ever watched a similar feature, as are character tropes.
Characters lack any semblance of critical thinking, seemingly ignorant of everything going on around them. Protagonist Melissa, her husband, and their friends are clueless at all points, and magically incapable of defending themselves. Antagonist Yvonne - "Grandma" - is shrewd and calculating, yet for all her supposed knowledge and careful planning, misses the obvious. Dialogue is unquestionably ham-handed - at turns pointedly alarming, cutesy, tragic, dire, overwrought with sentiment, or helplessly vague - but always blunt. There are still other points where the dialogue is filled with such uninspired repetition that it feels like something an eight-year old may have written for a creative writing assignment.
As if to illustrate just how haphazard and unsubtle this film is in its construction: we get flashbacks to young Yvonne, played by Jodi Lyn Thomas, and she bears a passing likeness to Visitor in scenes of her interacting with her daughter. But then we also see Yvonne (Visitor), in the "present day," examining a photo of her with her daughter, and instead of Thomas, it's Visitor in the image.
This is all bad news for 'Killer in law,' and to be sure, there's a lot of it. Yet there's an important point to consider in that it never has any illusions about being something it's not. This is a schlocky, forthright, low-grade thriller, as we anticipate from Lifetime - and in that slant, it is to drama as a B-movie is to horror. There is fun to be had here, if you're willing to accept the feature on its level.
The scenario is one that we can unfortunately easily imagine playing out under dire circumstances in real life. But the way it's written here is so plain and bereft of nuance that it's difficult to imagine there was any intent of truly imparting dramatic urgency. It's so over the top that it's entertaining in the manner of nearly being a comedy, and I have no doubt in my mind that the cast had a great time making this and realizing their outrageously thin characters, and the ham-fisted plot. That goes most of all for Visitor, of course, whose role is so exaggerated and beyond sense in single-minded purpose that she's able to exercise all her experience and skill toward leaning into making this nana as nefarious as possible. It's a blessing that she essentially has just as much time on screen as everyone else combined.
Now, look. Recognizing Lifetime's reputation, I don't expect anyone to enjoy this outright, no matter the perspective. There's no reason to give consideration to a title like 'Killer in law,' so simple and uncomplicated, when there's much more content available that's just as if not more deserving. And it takes a very particular and open-minded approach to film appreciation to be able to actively engage with any such feature, and acknowledge both its flaws and its strengths.
Yet to see such a film for what it is allows us to entreat with it regardless of preconceptions. And with that in mind - however pressingly tactless and unrefined it may broadly be, there's a fair amount of amusement to be had here. If you know where it comes from, then you already have a good idea of whether or not 'Killer in law' is a movie that could possibly find your favor. And if any of this sounds like something you can get on board with - just sit back and enjoy the show.
Recommended especially for fans of Nana Visitor, naturally.