American Murderer – An Interview with Director Matthew Gentile

This special episode of Criterion Cast features an interview with Matthew Gentile, director and writer of AMERICAN MURDERER:

Based on a true story, this riveting thriller follows Jason Derek Brown (Tom Pelphrey), a charismatic con man bankrolling his extravagant lifestyle through a series of scams. On Brown’s trail: Lance Leising (Ryan Phillippe), a dogged FBI special agent determined to put Brown behind bars. When Brown’s funds run low and his past catches up with him, he plots his most elaborate scheme yet, pitting himself against Leising in a deadly game of cat and mouse — and becoming the most unlikely and elusive fugitive on the FBI’s most-wanted list.

Director’s Statement

Why do we fall for con artists? Is it that they’re smart and the victims are gullible, or is it something deeper? This is the question at the heart of AMERICAN MURDERER.

As a kid, I was obsessed with crime — so much so that I would browse the Top Ten Most Wanted list, hoping to help the FBI catch a fugitive. One of them made a distinct impression on me: Jason Derek Brown, a surfer dude with spiky blonde hair and a smirk on his face. Compared to Osama Bin Laden and Whitey Bulger, he just didn’t fit the profile.

On the surface, AMERICAN MURDERER is a cat-and-mouse thriller about a fugitive and the FBI agent who has been tasked with bringing him to justice. But what fascinates me about Jason’s story isn’t the crime itself; it’s how he impacted the people who loved him. That’s why I chose to tell his story through multiple perspectives. Whether the audience likes Jason or not – by the end of the film, they will get a 360-degree view of who he was.

With AMERICAN MURDERER, my intention is to guide the audience to look directly into the eyes of a dark soul and shine a light on how he became this way. Thus the film poses another question: can we take a human being who is rotten to the core and move an audience to a place of compassion? I believe that we can.

  • Matthew Gentile

Episode Links:

American Murderer

Jason Derek Brown

Intro/Outro Music: “Visiting My Toys”, composed by Scott Gentile – from the American Murderer Original Soundtrack


David Blakeslee

David hosts the Criterion Reflections podcast, a series that reviews the films of the Criterion Collection in their chronological order of release. The series began in 2009 and those essays (covering the years 1921-1967) can be found via the website link provided below. In March 2016, the blog transferred to this site, and in August 2017, the blog changed over to a podcast format. David also contributes to other reviews and podcasts on this site. He lives near Grand Rapids, Michigan and works in social services. Twitter / Criterion Reflections