“The Ritual Killer” (2023), released by Screen Media in theaters, and in DVD and Blu-Ray formats, on March 10, 2023, is a film centering around the hunt to catch a serial murderer who mutilates his victims before killing them in order to practice an ancient African black magic ritual called ‘Muti.’ The film, directed by George Gallo, is an American mystery/action thriller starring the illustrious Morgan Freeman as Professor Mackles and Cole Hauser as Detective Boyd. The plot follows a string of murders beginning in Rome, Italy, and landing in America, where the pitiless and unstoppable witch-doctor, Randoku, played by Vernon Davis, ruthlessly murders a young woman and a child. The narrative takes numerous turns as Detective Boyd seeks out Dr. Mackles, an expert on African studies, to uncover the gory details behind the murders. Apart from Morgan Freeman, Cole Hauser, and Vernon Davis, “The Ritual Killer” also stars Peter Stormare, Murielle Hilaire, Guiseppe Zeno, Brian Kurlander, and Julie Lott. Although the film touches on various motifs like myth, religion, violence, cultural misappropriation, and ritual sacrifice, it somehow fails to adequately integrate them into the narrative.
Morgan Freeman As Professor Mackles
Dr. Mackles is a professor at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, who specializes in the field of African studies. After the two ritualistic murders that occurred in America, Dr. Mackles is approached by Detective Boyd in order to shed some light on the bizarre paraphernalia left by the killer at the crime scene. At first, he refuses to get involved, having recognized the malevolent intentions behind the gory rituals, but he eventually agrees to help the detective examine the crime scene. It is he who first divulges the true nature of the crime and the sinister motivation behind it. He reveals that these are the acts of a ‘Sangoma,’ a traditional healer from the southern part of Africa who resorts to black magic and pseudo-scientific practices that include ingesting bodily organs to enhance the physical competency and facilitate mental de-aging of an individual.
Morgan Freeman is perhaps one of the biggest and most revered names in Hollywood. He has led an illustrious career in show business, with several accolades to his name, including a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award, and a number of Academy Award nominations for his roles in “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994), “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989), and “Street Smart” (1987). He is well-remembered for his part in a similar crime thriller, “Seven” (1995), alongside Brad Pitt, where he played a senior detective on the hunt for a barbarous serial killer who orchestrates his murders in a biblical fashion. Some of his most cherished performances can be noted in films like “Glory” (1989), “Bruce Almighty” (2003), “Million Dollar Baby” (2004), “Gone Baby Gone” (2007), “The Bucket List” (2007), “Wanted” (2008), and Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy” (2005–2012). Apart from the big screen, Freeman is also known for his performances in theater, including as Coriolanus in “Julius Caesar” and Zeke in “The Mighty Gents,” a play by Richard Wesley. His distinctive voice has led him to narrate several documentaries, including “Through the Wormhole” (2010–2017) and “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman” (2016–2019).
Cole Hauser As Detective Lucas Boyd
Cole Hauser plays the character of Detective Boyd, a grieving father who lost his teenage daughter to drowning. As the murders shift to America, he is tasked with finding the perpetrator along with his fellow detective, Kersch, played by Murielle Hillaire. Desperate to get to the bottom of the crimes, Boyd seeks out Dr. Mackles at Millsaps College to help him decipher the killer’s intentions. He reaches out to Inspector Mario Lavazzi (played by Guiseppe Zeno), the Italian detective who had investigated a number of kidnappings associated with the killer in Rome, to find a way to intercept him. He gets the name Shelby Farner (Brian Kurlander), a South African businessman who had commissioned Randoku to perform ritualistic killings for his own insidious purposes. He finally catches up to the killer with the help of Dr. Mackles, just as he is about to sacrifice another young girl to perform his gory ritual.
Cole Hauser is a popular American actor who is known for his roles in “Dazed and Confused” (1993), “Good Will Hunting” (1997), “Tigerland” (2000), “Tears of the Sun” (2003), “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003), and “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013). He is also popularly known for starring as Rip Wheeler in Paramount Network’s hit drama series “Yellowstone.”
Vernon Davis As M’Gushu Randoku
Vernon Davis is a former American professional football player who plays the character of the main antagonist in the film, M’Gushu Randoku, a ‘Sangoma’ who kills and mutilates young victims to harvest their organs. He is presented as an imposing figure with ceremonial scars on his face who, regardless of the consequences of his actions, remorselessly carries out his sickening rituals to expedite his means. A professional killer with predatory instincts, he has escaped arrest on multiple occasions and been the cause of numerous deaths. He chooses his victims based on their physical prowess and ‘purity,’ as to him; his rituals are nothing but sacred. Vernon Davis is most fondly known for his career in the NFL, where he has played for the ‘San Francisco 49ers’, “Denver Broncos,” and “Washington Redskins’. Apart from his illustrious sports career, Davis has starred in a number of Hollywood productions, including “Hell on the Border” (2019), “A Message from Brianna” (2021), “Red Winter” (2022), and “A Day to Die” (2022).
Murielle Hilaire As Detective Kersch
Murielle Hilaire plays the role of detective Kersch, a trusted partner and dedicated companion to detective Boyd, who assists him in the investigation of the Randoku murders but suffers a near-fatal injury at the hands of Randoku as he tries to escape from Boyd. Hilaire is a Franco-American model and actress known for her roles in “Baie des flamboyants” (2007–2010), a French telenovela, “The Love Punch” (2013), and “There’s Something in the Trunk” (2018).