Blue-Eyed Butcher: Lifetime's Susan Wright Movie, Viciously Reviewed by One of Her Attorneys

Lifetime's version of Kelly Siegler
Lifetime's version of Kelly Siegler

Susan Wright is the Houston woman who tied her husband to their bed and stabbed him 193 times. Kelly Siegler is the prosecutor who re-enacted that scene in court, bringing in a bed, tying a fellow prosecutor to it and then fake-stabbing him 193 times for the jury's sake.

Lifetime has made a movie out of all this, subtly titled Blue-Eyed Butcher.

Brian Wice represented Wright on appeal, got her sentence reduced to 20 years, and is portrayed in the movie.

We asked him to review it and he did, viciously and hilariously:

I spent 93 minutes of my life that I will never get back Leap Day morning, watching a sneak preview of Blue-Eyed Butcher, the Lifetime ("Television for Idiots") movie-of-the week (MOW) on the Susan Wright case that will air this Saturday at 7 p.m.

My objective and dispassionate take can be distilled to three words: Not Enough Wice. When I saw that an early bootleg copy of the script described me as "a handsome, early-fifties, sharp-dressed lawyer," it reminded me of what Otter told Flounder in Animal House: "It's gotta work better than the truth."

I was supposed to be in four scenes but like the Kevin Costner corpse in The Big Chill, I pretty much wound up on the cutting-room floor. Aside from a few evanescent shots of me in the courtroom taking notes during the trial, my small screen debut is limited to the movie's climatic final scene. More on that in a sec.

Simply put, this cinematic piece of dreck makes Showgirls look like Gone with the Wind, a toxic amalgam of cliche, banality, and bombast that is not just cheesy, but positively slathered in queso, as over the top as its title, and as empty as Kim Kardashian's head.

Susan digs away in the film
Susan digs away in the film

Fortifying the notion that any MOW "based on a true story," must include myriad scenes that never took place, the screenwriter of this bomb, Michael J. Murray, does not disappoint, inventing an opulent Jeff-Susan wedding and reception fit for royalty, a tag sale where Susan sells Jeff's personal effects to pay her legal fees until her apoplectic lawyer chases everyone off the front lawn, and a scene where Susan overrules her lawyer's advice not to testify because, as she posits, channeling Sally Field, "they will really like me." Murray also dug down deep to come up with such cutting-edge kernels of dialogue as, "You'll be the death of me, pretty lady," and "Oh, Susan, you just met Mr. Wright!" and "You look just like a whore."

Even before the opening credits have rolled, the viewer must suspend disbelief, what Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who should have snagged a producer credit on this schlock-fest, defined as "the temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible." Picture the snuff-colored beaches of Galveston as the honey-glazed seashore of Malibu, Jeff's institutional-like southwest Houston apartment as a chic condominium in Santa Monica, a nondescript prosecutor's office as the wainscoted chambers of a Supreme Court justice, and Susan's pre-marital girl posse as bikini-rocking SI swimsuit models, and you begin to get the picture.

And what of the all-star cast? In keeping with the constitutional mandate that the players in any MOW must not have faces that scare small children, everyone in this movie looks like they just came from brunch and botox at the Chateau Marmont:

Semi A-lister Lisa Edelstein, who played Cuddy on House and is now on The Good Wife, plays former rock-star prosecutor, Kelly Siegler.

Justin Bruening, who made his bones on All My Children, a leaner, meaner version of Stiffler from American Pie, and whose acting skills run the gamut from A to B, is Jeff Wright.

Sara Paxton, whose highlight-reel includes the straight-to-DVD classic Shark Night 3D, looking a whole lot sexier in her underpants than her infinitely more-famous doppelganger, Reese Witherspoon, plays Susan.

Even the Wright's family dog, a dedicated veteran of the method school of acting who steals every scene he is in, endures a Hollywood make-over, from a rabid cur to a romping Me and Marley-like Labrador retriever who digs up Jeff's body with the same playfulness he would have fetching a stick.   The only exception to the MOW-pretty face mandate is, ironically, the character playing Susan's lawyer, my good buddy Neal Davis, who looked as if he was barely old enough to shave when he defended Susan.

Neil is portrayed by W. Earl Brown, perhaps best known for his tour-de-force as the mentally-challenged kid in There's Something About Mary. With the dashing good looks of Nick Nolte's mug shot, what a bearded Meat Loaf (whom he has also portrayed in an MOW) might well look like after six months of solitary in a Turkish prison, Brown's faux Texas redneck courtroom gravitas makes the mountain man in Deliverance look like Rusty Hardin.

Of course, it wouldn't be a true crime MOW without a cameo from the queen of all bloviating gasbags, Nancy Grace, who makes her dyspeptic, pre-menopausal entry in the final reel, labeling Susan as, you guessed it, the Blue-Eyed Butcher. There are also walk-ons from the infinitely more-fetching duo of Anderson Cooper and former Victoria Secret model turned Fox eye-candy, Kimberly Guilfoyle, chattering mindlessly about Susan's altogether-likely decades-long stretch as a ward of the Lone Star State.

But the answer to the question that the true Hollywood cognoscenti have begged to know -- who played me -- or at least the character who would have been me had I been given a name, can now be revealed: noted character actor, Vyto Ruginis, whose career has spanned four decades (he's 56) on the small screen from Miami Vice to Law & Order to NCIS: LA, and the big screen from Devil's Advocate to Fast and the Furious to Moneyball.

When you see him on TV, you immediately say, "Of course, I know that guy, he's terrific." While Michael Keeton would have been my first choice, at least when he was still in the biz (rent The Paper some night to see him at his smirkiest), Vyto nails his lines in the movie's final scene, visiting Susan in the county jail (yet another scene that never happened).

Witness this pulse-pounding colloquy, as Susan apologizes for the garish red lipstick she is forced to wear and the perfume she "got out of a magazine" that she nevertheless acknowledges "smells quite nice."

SUSAN Do I look O.K.?

BRIAN You look very pretty.

SUSAN You really think you can get me out of here?

BRIAN I don't think you got a fair trial. I can tell you that. Now, I need to ask you some questions. I'm gonna need to know more about Susan Wright.

SUSAN Oh ... Well ... I hope you like me.

SUSAN smiles. Bright. Fade to black.

Wow, I still get goose bumps just typing this. I haven't felt this panoply of emotions since I gave my bar mitzvah speech back in the Summer of '42. I just might reprise it when I step up to the dais to collect my Emmy, er, Golden Globe award. "Distinguished members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, today I am a fountain pen..."

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