If you think all made-for-TV movies end in simplistic, upbeat, candy-cane conclusions, watch "Murder Without Motive: The Edmund Perry Story" at 9 tonight on WMAR-TV (Channel 2). The docudrama about the 1985 shooting death of a young, African-American scholar from Harlem goes out of its way to see the tragedy from several points of view, and it is willing to end without any neat resolution.
As a teen-ager, Perry received a scholarship to the Phillips Exeter Academy, one of the nation's most prestigious prep schools. Ten days after his graduation from Exeter, he was gunned down in Harlem by a New York undercover police officer who said Perry attacked him. The film, which is based on a book by Robert Sam Anson about Perry's life and death, says that Perry did, indeed, attack the officer. But it attempts to explore the rage that led to the attack.
"Murder Without Motive" has several things to recommend it. Curtis McClarin turns in a fine performance as Perry. Christopher Daniel Barnes does nice supporting work as Sean, Perry's one friend at school. Most important, the filmmakers seem to be legitimately trying to understand the cultural confusion and sense of dislocation in the teen- ager's overnight journey from the inner city to the hallowed halls of ivy.