Killers Anonymous

Review by Rich Cline | 1.5/5

Killers Anonymous
dir Martin Owen
prd Kirsty Bell, Matt Williams
scr Martin Owen, Elizabeth Morris, Seth Johnson
with MyAnna Buring, Gary Oldman, Rhyon Nicole Brown, Tommy Flanagan, Michael Socha, Tim McInnerny, Sam Hazeldine, Elizabeth Morris, Elliot James Langridge, Isabelle Allen, Suki Waterhouse, Jessica Alba
release US 28.Jun.19,
UK 26.Aug.19
19/UK 1h35

buring oldman waterhouse

clockwise from left: langridge, brown, socha, buring, morris, mcinnerny, flanagan
This ensemble British crime thriller is written and directed in a way that alienates the audience right from the start, trying to drum up interest while deliberately making it impossible to find a way in. There are some great actors in the cast, but the film is so heavily stylised and awkwardly structured that the characters never quite make sense. And the relentless violence never means anything.
In the wake of the botched assassination of a US Senator (Hazeldine) in London, a mysterious boss (Oldman) flies in from Los Angeles and questions the rather unhelpful Jade (Alba). She's part of a 12-step support group for assassins led by Jo (Buring). The newest member is Alice (Brown), who's understandably nervous about being surrounded by killers (Flanagan, Socha, McInnerny, Morris and Langridge). While the boss, working with Violet (Waterhouse), watches from a nearby rooftop, a teen (Allen) is inside spying on the group.
The film is nicely shot in intriguing locations, but the evasive editing makes it very difficult to figure out what a scene is about. And it doesn't help that the actors are directed to heightened performances, which means that they always look like they're lying. This is probably deliberate, but it leaves the audience outside the story. The script layers in fragments of back-story in flashbacks as group members share their murderous pasts. The bigger question about who they are now becomes increasingly muddled.

None of the characters is likeable, so the cast members struggle from the start. Thankfully, most are gifted actors who layer some interest in between the lines of the script. So while Flanagan is basically just a shouty bully and McInnerny a stiff dork, Socha reveals some sensitivity under the bluster, even if his connection with Brown's observant Alice feels forced. Buring's role allows for more texture, dressed as a priest as she carefully watches everything. But Oldman (who gives it his all), Alba and Waterhouse seem edited in from a separate film.

There are some clever touches in the script, from surprising plot twists and dramatic revelations to an askance exploration of mortality. But the way the film is assembled leaves the audience always feeling like they're not privy to the joke. Scenes are talky and confusing, mainly because there is neither a central character nor a focal perspective. And since not a single person has a story arc, it's impossible to engage with anything that happens.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 18.Aug.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall