Race Darnell (Patrick Swayze - To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar) is on death row in the Utah State Penitentiary, wrongly accused of the murder of his wife and facing his inevitable demise. But Race has not stopped his incarceration from living as he has written a book about his experiences in prison and has managed to start corresponding with 4 different women, none of which know about each other. Well that is until one of the guards who dislikes Race decides to switch their mail and in doing so causes Race a whole lot of trouble as when one of them realises that Race has been double timing her vows to make sure he dies. So when Race's new lawyer manages to win and gets him out he soon finds himself on the run again when he is set up for two murders and unsure of who he can trust especially when it comes to the women in his life.
"Letters from a Killer" is frankly a slow starting movie as we are thrown into the prison life of Race Darnell where he is creatively stringing along 4 women from behind his cells bars. But whilst it is initially hard work "Letters from a Killer" does step into gear when Race is released and then finds himself on the run after he is set up for more murders. It means that eventually it becomes a recognizable movie with the innocent man on the run with a cop after him who half suspects he is innocent and of course the element of not being sure who he can trust. You could say it becomes a movie Hitchcock would have been at home doing although I am sure Hitchcock would have lifted it to being something special.
That is essentially what is wrong with "Letters from a Killer" as it isn't a bad movie but it's only ordinary. You sort of sit there watching and whilst entertained you keep thinking how this scene and that scene could have been done better to make it more thrilling and more stylish.
Despite this the one thing which does certainly work is Patrick Swayze who gives his character Race an element of darkness which makes us question him especially early on as we watch him writing to each of the women. And then when he becomes the innocent man on the run he brings his own touch to the character, his own sense of panic and conflict. Unfortunately the rest of the cast end up with ordinary characters who are forgettable and that is what the movie needed, stronger supporting characters.
What this all boils down to is that "Letters from a Killer" is an effective thriller and a good movie from Patrick Swayze. But the storyline itself could have become a great movie rather than one which is ultimately just okay.