Lifetime Review: 'Deadly Match'
A college student's plan to make ends meet goes awry in this by-the-book murder mystery.
Trina Campbell (Alyssa Lynch) is a hardworking college student, juggling classes on top of tutoring. But now, on top of having recently witnessed the death of classmate Jade (Alyson Bath), Trina is stunned to learn that her full-ride scholarship has been cancelled. Now faced with the prospect of having no money for school, Trina gets an idea from her friend Zach (Mitch Ainley) to raise some quick money: Release the dating app she created as a business project, Make a Date, onto the app store.
While reluctant, Trina agrees to the idea, and the app quickly gains popularity around campus. It also leads Trina to befriending Lacey (Bethany Brown) and her roommate Raquelle (Debs Howard), being stunned by their extravagant apartment and taking their encouragement to plunge into the dating scene. But it's soon after doing so that Trina realizes the truth about her app and her new friends: Lacey and Raquelle are call girls, as was Jade, and they were now using her app as a means of setting up "dates" and payments with clients. While horrified by what her app is being used for and realizing the legal ramifications this puts her in, Trina decides that her app is the only link to what may have led to Jade's murder, and begins working to find the truth and bring her killer to justice. But as she digs deeper, Trina will find herself in the crosshairs of a deranged murderer willing to kill again to keep their secret.
On the surface, Deadly Match has a lot going for it. Trina is setup as the ideally relatable protagonist with her struggles to juggle school and financial troubles, and a story about a innocuous dating app being used as a hub for prostitution—with all the legal ramifications that come with that—can make for a good story. If Deadly Match had been solely focusing on Trina's struggles to deal with the fact that her project is being misused and dealing with the unintended legal consequences of it, it might've made for an entertaining deviation from Lifetime's regular formula. But instead, Deadly Match throws a murder mystery into the mix that dominates the second half of the plot, with the haphazard way in which it's introduced resulting in the mystery feeling rushed. Meanwhile, the climax is appropriately dramatic and intense, but is marred by the film nixing the possibility of having an interesting twist in favor going the standard route many viewers might see coming much sooner than the characters do.
Casting fares significantly better, though there are moments when Alyssa Lynch seems to struggle as the film's heroine. Despite this, Lynch paints Trina as an authentic and relatable college student struggling to pay for college, with her desperation and worries being well-captured by Lynch's performance. However, it's when she begins delving into the prostitution her dating app begins housing and Jade's death that Trina can rub some viewers the wrong way. In addition to Trina coming off as naive not to realize her dating app might attract a different crowd than she's wanting, her dismissal of both the police and the support of her professor Sara Savoy (played with vigor by Tatyana Ali) come off as unnecessarily harsh given the circumstances, as well as how early the police's investigation is by the time she begins tearing into them for not listening to her.
Mitch Ainley is likable as Trina's platonic best friend Zach, serving as a proactive secondary protagonist beside Trina, even though their storyline has the conclusion you'd expect it to have. Bethany Brown (previously seen in Killer Twin) and Debs Howard do their best to bring sympathy to their high-rolling, party-girl characters, with Howard giving genuine heart in one of Raquelle's scenes. But in the end, many might find their willingness to let a killer go free and let their friend's murder go unsolved for the sake of their own futures too off-putting and self-centered to empathize with. Ben Wilkinson brings another strong performance to Deadly Match as Dean Brackett, and surprise Best Friend's Betrayal gem Matt Hamilton returns here as Trina's disastrous date Ken, with his over-the-top sleazy attempt at getting a hookup from Trina being oddly entertaining at the same time as cluing Trina in to the fact that her app is being used for less than ideal purposes.
While the plot and characters leave a lot to be desired, Deadly Match is far from a total trainwreck, as the cast brings all they can to what is ultimately a cookie-cutter "Attractive Young People Investigate A Murder" Lifetime film, and do succeed in giving their characters heart and charm. All that said, it will make for an enjoyable watch in your downtime, but Deadly Match is unfortunately not the kind of film you'll be coming back to very often.
Score: 5.5 out of 10 red dresses.